Thursday, January 24, 2008; 12:00 AM
Thursday, January 24
Olivia Mancini and the Housemates (listen) kick off a busy few weeks of local CD releases with tonight's show on the Black Cat's backstage. The Washington Social Club bassist proves herself to be much more than just a sidekick on "This Kind of Life," an album of refreshingly straightforward pop songs that range from the bouncy "I Wouldn't Worry" to the wistful "The Deal Is Off." Horn-packed arrangements add a unique flavor without ever overwhelming the melodies. Donny Hue and the Colors (listen) and Order of the Dying Orchid (listen) open.
Friday, January 25
If you lived through the mid-'90s, you probably remember the name Buffalo Tom (listen). The Boston-based trio had a couple of radio hits, including "Soda Jerk" and "Taillights Fade," sporting a hook-filled, Americana-tinged sound comparable to the Lemonheads, Matthew Sweet or Teenage Fanclub. (The band's first two records got extra cred for being produced by Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis.) Buffalo Tom really broke through to the post-Generation X crowd when the band made a cameo appearance on an episode of "My So-Called Life." It was a concert that Jordan wanted to go to, but didn't invite Angela, so she went anyway, hoping that he'd see her there -- ah, memories. Anyway, the band performed live, got a song on the show's soundtrack, and then promptly went nowhere. Buffalo Tom went on hiatus in 1998, though it was one of those Slickee Boys-style breakups where, though the members all had other projects, the band still got together for one concert a year. Last year, Buffalo Tom finally released an album, "Three Easy Pieces," which sounds like they've never really been away. The accompanying tour, which stops at the Black Cat tonight, has resulted in sold-out shows from Austin to London. Check Buffalo Tom out tonight, and if you're lucky, things will work out for you as well as they did for Jordan and Angela at the end of that very special episode of "My So-Called Life," and you'll walk out holding hands with Buffalo Tom ringing in your ears.
In a city crowded with amazing DJs, it's easy to miss an adept deck handler or two unless you're checking out every new party and every new spot. DJ I-Wah is one of those cats that fellow DJs know about, but he somehow manages to evade most partygoers' radar. Check I-Wah out for free at Tabaq every Friday, where you'll find him weaving together rare-groove classics, Afro-Latin flavors and broken beat. For the folks that like to lounge but still want the experience of a true musicologist mixing tunes and setting the vibe, Tabaq should be in your regular rotation.
Saturday, January 26
Tonight is the final night for Dr. Dremo's Taphouse. The joint closes forever at 2 a.m. The no-cover going away party features live music all night and free pool and discounted drinks from 5 to 7:30. It's going to be a madhouse. We suggest arriving early.
Half a century ago, musicians were far more prolific than today's "artists." The Beatles managed to release classic albums "Help," "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" in an 18-month span in 1965-66. At the same time, Bob Dylan was recording the masterful trilogy of "Bringing it All Back Home," "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde on Blonde." (Compare that to Britney Spears, who's taken a decade to release five albums and dissolve into a tabloid freak show.) Perhaps the most tragic example of this post-war efficiency is Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holley, who managed to record a number of classic rock 'n' roll songs in the 23 months between recording his first hit single, "That'll Be the Day," and his death in an airplane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, in 1959. Think about "Oh Boy," "Peggy Sue," "Crying, Waiting, Hoping." And Holly's influence goes beyond his performances: His songs were covered by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, giving the latter their first hit, and Holly's trademark eyewear is still all the rage amongst sensitive emo boys, like Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, whose band had a hit with a song called "Buddy Holly." It's the music that takes center stage at Chick Hall's Surf Club tonight, where the annual Winter Dance Party features a wide variety of local musicians performing the music of Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper all night long. You'll hear old-time country (the Starlingtons), straight-up rockabilly (the Garnet Hearts and the Droptops), indie rock (Ellen Cherry) and honky-tonk (J.P. McDermott and Western Bop) playing about 40 of Holly's tunes throughout the night. Making this event truly bittersweet is that this is one of the last chances to hear live music at the legendary Chick Hall's, which is closing its doors forever on Feb. 1 after more than 50 years.
We haven't talked about Jukebox the Ghost (listen) too much, but it's not because we're ignoring them. It's because we have a bit of a conflict of interest: Guitarist Tommy Siegel was a City Guide intern a few semesters back. Clearly, his time spent here is the reason for the band's ever-increasing buzz, and that buzz isn't limited to D.C. (The band's 2007 EP came in at #51 on WOXY's best of 2007 list, right above some no-names like Bjork, Robert Plant and Ryan Adams.) The trio has a sound that stands out and is known for live shows packed with infectious energy. Two of the most common musical reference points are Ben Folds and Queen, an odd combo, but it makes sense. Ben Thornewill's piano playing and cheeky lyrics recall Folds and there's an element of bombast to the songs that brings to mind the legendary British stadium rockers. Thornewill, Siegel and drummer Jesse Kristin recently graduated from GW and will be taking the show on the road after tonight's CD release show at the Black Cat. Bellman Barker (listen) and Pash (listen) handle the opening slots.
The Velvet Lounge was sold to former Local 16 bartenders Abdul Kayoumy and Haile Berhane last month, but don't expect any radical changes. The club's live music schedule will continue to look a whole lot like the old Warehouse Next Door schedule (all the way down to the incredibly unhelpful, perpetually "under construction" Web site), with plenty of experimental music booked by Clavius Productions. And expect the sound quality to remain the best in the city on a nightly basis. The musical offerings will be a little simpler as the venue celebrates its 10th anniversary tonight. Local genre-hoppers the Hula Monsters (listen) -- they call themselves "a swing band with a Hawaiian flavor" -- are the perfect party band, serving up genre-hopping delights from rockabilly to jazz. Former Dead Milkman Joe Jack Talcum (listen) and Dead Ex-Husbands (cleverly featuring former members of Dead Beat and Ex-Husbands) round out the bill.
For a crash course on some of the catchiest indie bands around, the Rock and Roll Hotel is the place to be this evening. It's a stacked lineup with nary a weak spot, so get there early and make sure to wear some comfortable shoes. We haven't heard much from headliners the Roosevelt (listen) since the band's excellent 2006 EP, which was full of breezy, tuneful tracks. Hopefully the band's new material sounds just as good. Gary B and the Notions (listen) play power-pop and do it very well. Hooks, melodies, harmonies -- there will be no shortage of any of those elements when the Baltimore quartet hits the stage. Kitty Hawk (listen), overlooked members of the Federal Reserve collective, have recently been reduced from a quartet to a duo, but the stripped-down lineup works just fine for the band's hushed indie-folk offerings. The Beanstalk Library (listen) made David's year-end Local Mixtape and the band's album "America at Night" still sounds great months after the initial thrill of the new has worn off.
Sunday, January 27
Tonight it again it pays off to be in an area where concert companies know they can double their profits by booking acts in Baltimore and Washington. There have been a number of big shows that sold out the 9:30 club that we've been lucky to catch when they pass through our northern sister city. So for all of you lovers of clever, conceptual, iconoclastic hipster-hop with 'hood roots who didn't cop Lupe Fiasco tickets early enough, head up the highway to Sonar tonight. As the cycle between the rise and fall of microwave ringtone rap acts constricts, Lupe (listen) has managed to carve his own lane. His most recent album "The Cool" is stuffing more kudos into his already overflowing backpack, and with this new level of success he's beefed up his stage show with a full band. That proves all the more handy to flesh out the more adventurous musical arrangements on the new record.
Monday, January 28
We don't hear too much from Sprites (listen), which is too bad. The band has stayed relatively active on the recording front, with two full-lengths and an EP to its credit since 2003, including 2006's "Modern Gameplay," which featured the hilarious electro-pop gem "I Started a Blog Nobody Read." Frontman Jason Korzen hasn't changed much of the songwriting formula that made his former group Barcelona local favorites back in the day -- big keyboards, nerdy lyrics about computers, lots of references -- but it's still working, so why mess with it? Take advantage of this rare chance to see the band live at Galaxy Hut with Sad Crocodile (listen).
Once again, it's time for D.C. to live up to stereotypes and prove to the rest of the country that we're the town full of dorks and policy wonks they think we are. Forget next week's Super Bowl: Bars across the area will be turning their high-definition flatscreens to the freaking State of the Union Address tonight, from the Hawk and Dove and Capitol Lounge on the Hill to the U Street and Shirlington branches of Busboys and Poets. Party like rockstars, D.C.! If you're going to watch the State of the Union, you might as well drink while you're doing it. Ventnor Sports Cafe is reviving its annual SotU drinking game, where you pick a word like "safer," "terror" or "nuculer," and every time President Bush uses it, you get a $1 shot. (Why hold back? When you're young and irresponsible, you're young and irresponsible, right?) For more politically-minded gatherings, the Arlington Young Democrats are holding a viewing party at Bailey's in Ballston, with State of the Union bingo and drink specials, including $2 Buds, $3 Magic Hat pints and $4 Jack Daniels cocktails. On the other side of the aisle, the Alexandria Young Republicans are gathering in the private room at the Capitol City Brewing Company in Shirlington.
Wednesday, January 30th
None of us has been to La Tasca in a while, but the Spanish tapas bar may lure us back tonight for "A Fiesta for a Good Cause." Half of the $20 cover goes directly to support breast cancer research, and attendees receive two free drinks, a paella buffet and happy hour deals from 6 to 9 (think $3 glasses of sangria, draft beer and house wines). There are no advance ticket sales -- just head down the twisting staircase to the basement-level bar.