Thursday, February 21, 2008; 12:00 AM
Thursday, February 21
It's tragic whenever talented artists pass on before their time, but the aftermath of J. Dilla's death has yielded much more positivity than the sad tales of other fallen hip-hop heroes. More and more new fans are diving into his vast discography, thanks to the frequent tributes and posthumous releases that have taken place over the past two years. A new crop of listeners who didn't collect every Slum Village record or follow Dilla's quiet but profound contributions to the Soulquarians and A Tribe Called Quest are now realizing that Dilla had a hand in many more of their favorite songs than they realized, from Janet Jackson's "Got Til It's Gone" to several bangers in Busta Rhymes' catalog. Eighteenth Street Lounge is opening its doors to Dillalogists tonight, as XM Radio's DJ Bee mixes up Dilla classics all night for Dilla Day: The After Party. The event is free, and if you have XM Radio you can tune in to XM 65 at 8 p.m. for a live broadcast of a Dilla tribute featuring Pete Rock, Talib Kweli, Maureen Yancey (Dilla's mom) and J. Laine's band The Players.
Pete Rock's current mission is to bring New York back. The veteran beat banger represents a large constituency of serious heads who feel the original city of hip-hop has lost its way amid ringtone rap and the southern takeover. His new album, "NY's Finest," (watch) reunites fans with his soulful sample manipulation, accompanied by a gang of guests ranging from Styles P and Sheek Louch to Redman and Little Brother. If you can't wait until Tuesday to cop it, get a taste at Cue Bar tonight. The Chocolate Boy Wonder himself will be doing a short set at Laced along with resident VJs the VideoKillers and live art by Aniekan Udofia. Rumor has it that the guest of honor is going on late. Until then, kill time by playing on the free Wii system.
Bartender/filmmaker/man about town Jason Mojica has built a solid following for his monthly Modernist Society events at Bourbon, which feature authors, foreign correspondents and other interesting folks hosting Q&A sessions with an audience before DJs take over for a late-night dance party. The night's gone so well, in fact, that Bourbon is letting Mojica program every Thursday at the Adams Morgan bar. Look for a regular lineup of contributors like DJ Neville Chamberlain (of Saint-Ex's Brazilian Rhythms night) on the second Thursday of the month, and, beginning tonight, DJ Name Names on the third Thursday. "Name Names" might not ring a bell, but his face and trademark black nest of a pompadour will: It's a nom de guerre for uber-scenester Ian Svenonius, who's been playing in legendary D.C. bands like the Nation of Ulysses, the Make Up and Weird War for decades. Expect plenty of weird funk, fuzzed out '60s psych-pop and soulful gospel to pound from the speakers at Ian Svenonius's Bohemian Grove. There's no cover, and the upscale drink specials include $3 Brooklyn and Bell's beers and select $3 bourbons.
Know what you're doing for happy hour tonight? Might as well make it a surprise. The Kegbus is heading on a mystery bar crawl through Northern Virginia, beginning with food and drink specials at the McCormick & Schmick's in Reston Town Center before heading to unannounced destinations in Ashburn and Herndon. The tour wraps up back in Reston, but we can't tell you where. Tickets are $15, and the price includes transportation, admission to all bars and drink specials. (You can BYOB on the bus if you'd like.) The converted school bus leaves Reston at 6:30, so make sure you're on time. Register at Kegbus.com.
Mad Power Unit, the group behind such popular happy hours as Flirt and the Opium Fridays club night at Avenue, is launching Sugar Daddy Thursdays at MCCXXIII with free admission, two hours of open bar and DJs spinning hip-hop and R&B all night. The promoters say that you won't have to wait in the inevitable lines if you grab a pass from madpowerunit.com. Let's hope so.
Friday, February 22
Spank Rock's insanely catchy mashup of bootylicious Baltimore Club, smooth-flow underground hip-hop, freewheelin' Frenchie electro and touches of Brazilian baile funk has been causing riotous atmospheres at clubs all over the world, and tonight, a little bit of that vibe is going to take over a tiny hole-in-the-wall on Bladensburg Road. Naeem Juwan, the lead MC and face of Spank Rock, won't be in the house, but battle DJ Ronnie Darko, one of Spank Rock's turntablists and a member of the Baltimore Bass Connection (listen) is going to set Jimmy Valentine's off. That's a promise and a threat. Also on board is house DJ Sharkey (listen), which means you'll be dancing from 9 p.m. until the lights go on. There's no cover.
Nickodemus recently mashed Eighteenth Street Lounge, or so say the lucky few who were able to get in before it got rammed. If you had to hear about it later, you've got another chance tonight. His partner DJ Sabo takes the decks with local fave DJ Tom B for more Turntables on the Hudson flavor. For the uninitiated, that includes Caribbean, Latin and funk grooves welded to an electronic chassis. If your dancing feet respond to bass, dub and salsa, then get to the spot early tonight.
Geoff Pope had a fairy tale season for the New York Giants. The former Howard University cornerback was passed over in the draft, then signed and released by Miami in the pre-season. The Giants picked up the second-team All-MEAC defensive back the day after the Dolphins cut him, and then Pope spent the entire season on New York's practice squad. Injuries in the Giants secondary, though, meant that Pope was activated for the playoffs, and he saw a good deal of action on special teams and at cornerback in the divisional round against the Dallas Cowboys and the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers. It's no wonder he's going to be celebrating at the Super Bowl Champs Party tonight at Love. "Other members" of the Giants are going to show, according to the club, but we bet the former Bison will get the most love. WKYS's DJ Analyze provides the beats. Free passes are available from lovetheclub.com.
It's a good week for hip-hop with Pete Rock and a Dilla party in town. It's usually feast or famine around these parts for lovers of substantive hip-hop, so keep the momentum going tonight with DJ Dredd on the backstage at the Black Cat. Close To The Edge is Dredd's night to mine his crates for the finest vintage hip-hop from obscure to classic while Optical Grooves handles the visuals.
Saturday, February 23
The Dominican Republic celebrates 240 years of independence from Haiti next Wednesday, but the party's kicking off early with the Independence Day Bash at Avenue tonight. Headlining is Dominican-by-way-of-D.C.-and-New-York band Optimo (listen), whose romantic mix of traditional bachata ballads and modern R&B has been building them quite a following -- in fact, the band was picked up by Sony BMG after it ranked as one of the most popular unsigned bands on MySpace. There will be two floors of Latin music tonight, with DJ Geometrix mixing hip-hop and party tracks on the other. Get on the guest list at primop.com for free entry and an open bar until 11.
You'd be forgiven for feeling slightly uncomfortable at a Daniel Johnston (listen) show. Imagine standing there watching someone who you know could have a breakdown at any second ... well, in this Winehouse/Spears era, it's not quite as shocking as it once was. Johnston's history of mental illness and battling personal demons has been well-known in the music underground for decades, and it was illuminated further with the 2005 documentary "The Devil and Daniel Johnston," which chronicled his manic depression, bipolar disorder and also, of course, his prolific songwriting career. Outside of Robert Pollard, it's hard to think of anyone who has recorded as many songs over the past couple decades. Johnston has an undeniable knack for memorable indie-folk tunes, even if his nasal voice will turn some people off. It never turned off Kurt Cobain, Beck, Tom Waits, Wilco, the Flaming Lips and dozens of others who have either covered his tunes or praised his work. It's been ages since Johnston has played in D.C., and you never know when he'll give up touring altogether, so if you're looking for an in-person underground rock history lesson, the Black Cat is the place to be tonight. Benjy Ferree (listen), whom we've somehow gone a few months without mentioning, opens.
If you haven't registered for the National Kidney Foundation's annual Casino Night -- held this year with a Monte Carlo theme at the French Embassy -- then get a move on, because Thursday, Feb. 21, is the last day to do so. The black-tie optional affair includes casino gaming (blackjack, roulette, craps) and a Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament, hors d'oeuvres, cocktails, French wines, a raffle, silent auction and live music by the Jangling Reinharts, who, despite the name, play rootsy rock covers, not hot jazz. Tickets are $110 (or $130 for the Hold 'Em tourney): reserve tickets here.
The D.C. Blues Festival is one of the summer's best days out for local music: a full afternoon and evening of nothing but the blues in the sunny Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Rock Creek Park. Previous headliners have included Saffire the Uppity Blues Women, Clarence "the Bluesman" Turner and Memphis Gold, and this year, the D.C. Blues Society is letting the fans decide who gets to take the stage. D.C. Blues Society auditions take place in a battle of the bands format tonight at Chick Hall's Surf Club -- which apparently hasn't closed yet -- beginning at 7. There's no cover, and we're told there will be free food. Stop by, listen to the 10 bands perform short sets and vote for your favorite; the winner gets a slot in the festival on Saturday, August 30.
Sunday, February 24
The Jet Age (listen) has long been an office favorite, and a few listens to the band's new album, "What Did You Do During the War, Daddy?" has only solidified that status. "During the War" contains the same driving, muscular indie rock heard on the local trio's 2006 album "Breathless," but it is a more compact and focused offering. The guitar heroics are still there, just toned down a bit, and the always-tight rhythm section is locked in to an even greater degree. Songs like "Ladies, Don't Cry Tonight" and "O, Calendar" (apparently the band is fond of commas this time around) even have sing-along moments that up the material's catchiness quotient. Tonight's show at DC9 marks the official album release; J. Forte and the Secret Pop Band (listen) open.
Tuesday, February 26
Barton Carroll (listen) writes gorgeous, elegiac songs about love and loss. And if he was your friend, or a guy at the bar you were drinking with, you'd want to shake him and say, "Dude. No. Stop. Not again. Don't -- dude. No." Song titles on his brand-new record, "The Lost One," include "Those Days Are Gone, and My Heart Is Breaking" and "Pretty Girl's Going to Ruin My Life (Again)." The latter, the album opener, finds the narrator sitting alone, in his truck, in the rain, drinking whiskey and musing about his love, which doesn't quite sound requited. If the arrangements weren't so creative and the melodies weren't so finely crafted, you'd really start to worry. Even when the music goes upbeat, as on the relentlessly catchy "Brooklyn Girl, You're Gonna Be My Bride," the subject is wrong: Carroll's chasing a hipster girl, even though he knows he's not smart, funny or moving in the same circles, he's convinced he's going to win her. Good luck with that, buddy. What becomes of the broken-hearted? Find out tonight at the Red and the Black.
Wednesday, February 27
In a parallel world, Keren Ann (listen) could be Jane Birkin: A globe-trotting, multi-lingual chanteuse with a gorgeous breathy voice and an eye-catching sense of style. Born in Israel, she grew up in France and the Netherlands, and she now splits time between Paris and New York, where her latest album, "Keren Ann," was recorded. It came out last year on Blue Note and it roves the musical spectrum from the single "Lay Your Head Down," a dreamy tune that recalls both the Velvet Underground and Mazzy Star, to the more electric and eclectic "It Ain't No Crime." Keren Ann is joined tonight at the Black Cat by Dean and Britta (listen), the ex-Luna husband-and-wife duo who set the mood with '60s-style Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra crooning for modern hipsters. It should be a very enjoyable show.
The Child Ballads (listen) have been in existence for a few years, but it's never been able to gain much momentum. Fronted by former Jonathan Fire*Eater showstopper Stewart Lupton, the band has experienced a few lineup changes, has never gone out on a full-fledged tour and released its debut EP on a tiny U.K. label that wasn't able to offer any promotion. It's looking like 2008 could be the year things finally start to pick up. Lupton has found what seems to be a permanent backing band, Gypsy Eyes is set to give the "Cheekbone Hollows" EP a proper release in April and the Ballads will be hitting the road with the Kills for a few weeks in May. The group's ragged folk songs are always a little more tattered in a live setting, but the star quality of Lupton remains strong. The way he spews his mysterious, poetic lyrics makes him a captivating figure on stage. Original headliners RTX (featuring Jennifer Herrema of legendary scuzz rockers Royal Trux) had to bow out due to a band injury, so Lupton and Co. take top billing for tonight's show at the Velvet Lounge. The Foreign Press (listen) opens.