Thursday, November 8, 2007; 12:00 AM
Thursday, November 8
A few years ago, local country singer Wil Gravatt and his band were the stars at a now-closed Arlington roadhouse called Whitey's. Their performances of songs by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson always drove crowds of Lone Star-drinking Texas ex-pats into a boot-scootin' frenzy. Gravatt's played at a couple of bars (and inaugural balls) since, but our favorite venue remains his on-again, off-again residency at American Legion Post 8 on Capitol Hill, near the corner of Third and D streets SE. It's the perfect low-key venue for some down-home party music. You can catch the band there tonight and again on the 29th and Dec. 13. The music starts at 8:30 p.m., and there's a $6 cover.
We're guessing that someone at the Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse is a big fan of "The Big Lebowski." It's just a hunch, but the theater is putting on another of its Dude Fest parties that celebrate all things related to the Coen Brothers' classic tonight, including a costume contest. The evening starts with local musician Dave Jordan performing solo acoustic versions of songs from the soundtrack, and both trivia and costume contests take place before the screening of the film. Even if you don't take first prize, everyone who dresses up as their favorite character gets a pass to an upcoming show at the Drafthouse.
Friday, November 9
It was bad news for the 9:30 Club and Decemberists fans alike when the (pick one: whimsical, precious, annoying) indie-folk band canceled its fall tour, leaving four empty dates on the club's schedule, including two weekend evenings. Fear not, though: local bands to the rescue! Gypsy Eyes Records quickly threw together a diverse four-band bill headlined by ESL and Thievery Corporation-associated reggae group See-I (listen). The octet holds down Rockas International every Wednesday at Eighteenth Street Lounge and vocalists Rootz and Zeebo are certainly known to anyone who has witnessed a full band performance by Thievery. Speaking of Thievery, Rob Garza's new band Dust Galaxy (listen) will also be playing, featuring songs from the band's just-released debut album. It has an Eastern music meets psych rock feel, meaning it sounds a bit like ... Kula Shaker? Strange but true. Local sludge/psych faves Apes (listen) and spacey folk rockers Revival (listen) round things out.
For many of us Gen-X kids, our photo albums from the early '90s document damning fashion sins like genie pants, asymmetrical Gumby haircuts with geometric shapes and rayon (or silk if your allowance was fat) multi-colored "party shirts." While many of us would like to wipe that evidence from the historical record, the music that accompanied those styles is to be cherished. Revisit new jack swing hits like Guy's "Groove Me," "It Feels Good" by Toni! Tony! Toné! or "My Prerogative" by Bobby Brown and you've got a snapshot of some of the most infectious dance music in R&B history. Those were the days when you didn't impress ladies by "leaning widdit" or posting up in the party with a scowl on your face. You had to bust a sweat on the dancefloor, aerobics style. If you were really motivated, you might steal some moves from music videos before a big night out. Since nostalgia goes in 20 year cycles, new jack swing is creeping back into the pop culture consciousness and old acts are dusting off instruments and heading out on tour to make some dough. Some have aged more gracefully than others, but the strength of the hits should be more than enough to carry the New Jack Swing Tour at the Show Place Arena.
Despite ongoing problems getting his recordings into the marketplace Bilal (listen) tours heavily due to the devotion of a fanbase who appreciates that he never plays it safe. Bilal's considered one of neo-soul's biggest talents, but his jazz background allows him to stretch that lane way beyond its usual boundaries. A song stylist in the extreme sense, his ad-libs can swoop between a screeching falsetto or an emotionally wrenching tenor. If you're not up to heading out to Prince Georges County for a blast from the past tonight, catch this modern soul iconoclast at the Black Cat.
Happy Birthday to Juste Pehoua, the man behind Juste Lounge and Cafe Peju. He's not saying how old he's turning this year, but he's inviting everyone out to celebrate at his Bethesda restaurant and lounge tonight. The agenda includes belly dancers (8 to 8:30), local jazzman Marcus Johnson (8:30 to 10) and a premium open bar from 9 to 10. The patio's been tented and heated for the winter to provide extra room. Get pass for free admission until midnight from justelounge.com.
Every spring, the Cherry Fund raises thousands and thousands of dollars for gay and lesbian charities with a weekend of dancing and activities. While those three days may be the group's focus, they keep the feel-good parties going year-round. Tonight at Apex, for example, there's a party called Wild Cherries at Apex with DJ Alex Lauterstein, who's a fixture on the East Coast's circuit of gay dance clubs, including Pacha (New York), Pure (Philadelphia), Wetbar (Atlanta). He's spinning house on the main floor while VJ Tre mixes up music videos in the Video Bar and drag star Gladys Kravitz hosts karaoke. Proceeds from the cover charge benefit local charities.
Saturday, November 10
Reggae singer Da'Ville (listen) has parlayed his smooth, soulful voice into several chart-topping hits in his native Jamaica, been on a remix with Sean Paul and toured across Europe as well the Caribbean, but he's never performed in the Washington area. Tonight, fans of the "Big Bad Singer" get their first chance to see him in the flesh and hear hits like "Can't Get Over You" and "This Time I Promise" in Silver Spring, as part of the third anniversary party for Caribbean Vibes Radio. Caribbean Vibes Radio is an Internet-based station based in Silver Spring, which offers up a steady stream of reggae, soca, dancehall and roots music, perfect for trying to drive away that winter chill. Tonight's celebration at Mayorga Coffee Lounge features music by the Image Band and Caribbean Vibes DJs Solo and Paul Mack, plus guest selectors, dancers and models. General admission tickets are $30, while $50 VIP tickets include gift bags, an open bar and admission to a private suite. (Buy them at caribbeanvibesradio.com.) Doors open at 9:30.
We don't put too much stock in all those rankings of DJs that fill music magazines every year, but sometimes you have to think they're on to something. Dutch trance legend Armin Van Buuren (listen) -- whose 1996 track "Blue Fear" defined the genre -- tops the recently announced list from DJ Magazine after finishing as the runner up in 2006, and if his set at Glow earlier this year was anything to go by, Van Buuren's still at the top of his game, driving trance in new, less-cheesy directions than the "oom-chick, oom-chick" stereotype its detractors continue to mock. Spinning a mix of sub-genres and sub-sub-genres (progressive, tribal progressive, techno, trance, euphoric trance, vocal trance, melodic progressive, etc.), Van Buuren just gets crowds dancing. He's going on around 12:30 a.m., the club says, and spinning until 3:30 or 4. You won't want to miss a second. Fellow dutch DJ Remy opens the party at Ibiza.
Sunday, November 11
Benjy Ferree (listen) recently spent some time playing large theaters as opening act for the New Pornographers, but it will be a much cozier atmosphere for his show tonight at Galaxy Hut. Most of his area performances have been full-band affairs lately, so this show offers a rare opportunity to hear stripped-down versions your favorite songs from his excellent 2006 album, "Leaving the Nest." Opening will be frequent Ferree collaborator Amy Domingues (listen), the singer/songwriter/cellist who is the only permanent member of Garland of Hours. Her seductive songs should prove a fine soundtrack to the end of the weekend.
DJ Dredd serves up a WWF-style battle royale version of his wildly popular theme parties at the Black Cat tonight. Prince vs Michael Jackson vs Rick James allows endless opportunities for comparison and contrast. Three different shades of '80s androgyny are represented, along with match-ups of synth pop ("Erotic City"), slick disco soul ("Rock With You") and sleazy, greasy funk ("Bustin' Out"). The real winners are the folks getting sweaty on the Black Cat's dancefloor.
Chaka Khan has one of those voices that most people of any age or musical taste can readily identify. She can growl like a blues woman or howl like a sanctified choir member, but there's always a coating of honeyed smoothness and warmth that's unique to Chaka. From ballads like "Sweet Thing" to stormers like "I Know You, I Live You" Chaka has a track record that solidifies her position among the greatest ladies of soul. She's on that list of performers that you have to see at least once. Chaka raises her powerhouse vocals to the rafters of the Warner Theatre tonight.
Wednesday, November 14
David Kilgour (listen) is one of the best songwriters ever. There, I said it. He's been at it for 30 years, both on his own and as leader of New Zealand cult favorites the Clean. The Clean are often called the Velvet Underground of New Zealand, as they helped give birth to one of the most vibrant indie music scenes in the world in the late-'70s and early-'80s. Never quite as noisy as the Velvets, the band played an off-kilter, sometimes droney brand of rock that obviously was a huge influence on bands like Pavement and Yo La Tengo. Kilgour's consistency over the past few decades is astounding. This year's "The Far Now" is more of the psych-tinged, melodic pop that he's been excelling at since before David was born. Euros Child (listen) was also the leader of a cult favorite band in a sort of remote land, that band being psych-pop experimentalists Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and that place being Wales. His solo work is some seriously bouncy pop goodness. The Jet Age (listen) opens at DC9.
Indie hip-hoppers and jam bands have more in common than you would think. Many of the former make their tour money playing festivals dominated by the latter, and the fans are likely to have a Jurassic 5 record sitting next to a Madeski, Martin and Wood album. Galactic (listen) stops at the 9:30 Club tonight as part of a tour that features them backing up Mr. Lif (listen), the Lifesavas (listen) and Boots Riley of The Coup (listen). Boots should feel most at home in that context, because the Coup gets down with an Oakland funk band live, but all the performers are seasoned masters of ceremony who should be able to jump into some freestyle action with Galactic improvising the grooves.
Lesbian-centric promoters B.O.I. Productions -- the team behind parties for women at Adams Mill and Tom Tom -- has a new monthly party popping off tonight at Andalu. Called Ladies First, the music is a mix hip-hop and R&B, and the premiere features drink specials and giveaways, including copies of new CDs by, er, Melissa Ethridge and Nicole Atkins. (Those will be the crossover fans trying to score those, we guess.) Doors open at 9 p.m., and there's a $3 cover.
Thursday, November 15
Whether or not you've ever seen a yellow rose or remembered the Alamo, the Texas State Society's annual Terlingua Two-Step is one of the best parties in town. It seems like every Texas ex-pat, Longhorn graduate and country music fan in the area comes out to whoop, holler, drink a few beers and two-step the night away to stars like Jerry Jeff Walker, Asleep at the Wheel and Robert Earl Keene. This year's event, held at the Clarendon Ballroom, features Texas-born alt-country singer Wade Bowen (a href='http://www.myspace.com/wadebowen'>listen) and local "honorary Texan" Wil Gravatt. Tickets are $35 from texasstatesociety.org and include a two-step dance lesson before the party starts. Word of warning: If you think you'll be interested in going, buy tickets now: This event sells out every year.