Light Up Your Fourth With Music

By Lavanya Ramanathan
Friday, July 4, 2008

Watching the fireworks from the Mall is an enduring tradition in Washington: A crowd brimming with international visitors and people from across the country makes it an ideal people-watching opportunity. The fireworks themselves are spectacular (trying to spot the duds is always a highlight). And when else do you even try to meet 10 friends for a day-long picnic ?

But taking a year or two off from the traffic and crowds can keep things fresh. Today, experience the Fourth of July in alternative ways.

Nothing, for example, could be further from the "1812" Overture than salsa music. And at lunchtime, the Live! on Woodrow Wilson Plaza series brings in a salsa performer, Tito Puente Jr., to again headline the annual Independence Day bash (for the eighth time!). Son of legend Tito Puente, the percussionist aims to channel Dad in his thumping Latin jazz and salsa performances; he'll play many of his father's tunes, and throw in a few hits by idols such as Willie Colón. Free. Concert begins at noon. Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-312-1300.

If you're looking for something more sophisticated, utterly charming soul/R&B singer Eric Roberson hosts a holiday bash tonight at the 9:30 club, where he'll surely steal your girl with his slow jams and brainy lyricism. He brings the FB Experience, featuring Franklin Bridge and the Fuzz Band. $15. Doors at 9 p.m. 9:30 club, 815 V St. NW. 800-955-5566 or 202-393-0930.


CONCERT 1964 the Tribute This act pays homage to the Beatles, as they were when they arrived on these shores in 1964. A faux four, members mimic the clothing, mannerisms and shaggy mop tops of John, Paul, George and Ringo, and perform songs from the pre-"Sgt. Pepper" era. The band returns to the Birchmere this month. $35. 7:30 p.m. July 16. 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. 703-549-7500 or 202-397-7328.

THE SCENE Thurston Moore and Byron Coley: No Wave At the end of the month, the Corcoran Gallery of Art brings in Sonic Youth's Moore and music writer Coley for . . . a history lesson, albeit one about one of the coolest, most productive musical periods in recent times. The pair teamed up to publish a book, "No Wave: Post Punk," with photos and interviews chronicling the No Wave movement of art and music that began in New York in the late 1970s. When they're at the Corcoran, they'll offer insight into what they found. $22; members, $18. July 29 at 7 p.m. Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW. 202-639-1774 or get tickets at



HOLIDAYS July Fourth, Steeped in History Today, the National Archives stays open late and devotes much of the day to observing the historical significance of Independence Day. Beginning at 10 a.m. on its steps on Constitution Avenue NW, the Archives hosts a reading of the Declaration of Independence, complete with reenactors stepping in for Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others. Then, till 2 p.m., families will find activities such as temporary tattoos for kids, "Presidential Bingo" and a chance to make a campaign sticker or button. Exhibitions stay open till 9 p.m. (the special hours continue through Sunday). Free. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. National Archives, Constitution Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets NW. 202-357-5000.

EXHIBIT Stay Off Constitution Avenue Entirely: The National Portrait Gallery You've seen the posters. And yes, it's an election year. Why not use Independence Day -- Smithsonian museums are actually open -- to check out the political cartooning show "Herblock's Presidents: Puncturing Pomposity"? The show spotlights the work of Herbert Lawrence Block, whose work appeared in newspapers, including this one, for seven decades (Block died in 2001). The show includes depictions of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, on up to Bill Clinton. Free. 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets NW. 202-633-1000.


FESTIVALS Last Chance for Folklife These are the last few days for the Smithsonian's celebration of cultures, and this year it's worth a visit just for the amazing Bhutanese-style temple installed right on the Mall. The Smithsonian Metro station is closed today (it deposits you in the thick of the festival), so head out tomorrow. The Folklife Festival continues through Sunday. Free. 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events beginning at 6. The Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. (Metro is the best way to get there.) 202-633-1000 or visit


CONCERT Dengue Fever This L.A. indie band with a half-dozen members inspires something of a fever in its fans: The last time they rolled through the Black Cat, they sold out the place. Now, the band returns with its third record, "Venus on Earth," which features retro, '60s-sounding guitars and lyrics often sung in Cambodian. Singer Chhom Nimol is Cambodian and carries her culture into the band's music. The band is at the Black Cat on Sunday. Also putting it all in the blender is the opening act, Chicha Libre, a Brooklyn-based outfit rocking "psychedelic surf cumbia." $15. 8 p.m. Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. 202-667-7960.

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