A Beatmaker Bonanza

By Lavanya Ramanathan
Friday, September 19, 2008

Until Kanye West told his tale of being an underappreciated beat producer in his first record, "The College Dropout," many people outside of the music business hadn't paid much thought to the guy struggling in the basement with old records and a laptop to create a rhythm that would translate into a hit for Jay-Z or make J-Lo sound good.

Now, beatmakers are widely recognized as potential hitmakers, and two events in Washington next week put the talents of local producers on display: Beat Grinder, a longtime favorite, is a beat battle -- beatmakers play their creations live in a club for judging and to hear the crowd go wild. A more recent incarnation, the Beatdown, takes the battle out of it, letting the crowd cheer on their favorites but naming no winner.

It can be a strange thing to see a crowd cheering on what amounts to a few people hunched over laptops and hitting "play," but beatmaker events are loads of fun.

On Wednesday, the Beat Grinder -- the brainchild of Earl Davis (a.k.a DJ Damu the Fudgemunk) and his brother Tim Fabrega ( DJ Underdog, who is also the co-owner of the sneaker shop Major) -- returns to Liv nightclub at Bohemian Caverns to celebrate the oeuvre of amazing 1970s funk singer Betty Davis. Davis's biting sound was rediscovered when her albums, which were recorded in the 1970s, were re-released last year. The lesser-known-artist thing appeals to Fabrega and his brother.

"We hadn't highlighted a woman. There's just something about her," Fabrega says of Davis.

The Beat Grinder rules: The organizers have given competitors one Davis song to turn into a beat in their own style; the results are played on Wednesday, and the best ones advance to the next round. In the second and third rounds, the beatmakers play beats of their own choosing till a winner emerges. Between rounds, there will be a live art installation (a painting of Betty Davis), and Emoni Fela, DJ Roddy Rod and Rape Whistle perform. $7 at the door; Wednesday at 9 p.m. (the show starts about 10:30). Liv, 2003 11th St. NW. 202-299-0800.

The Beatdown is thrown by the fledgling Inner Loop Records -- run by Overok (Bryan Estes), J-$crilla of Guns-N-Butter (Jeff Clarkin), K-Beta (Rashid Bradford) and Nfinit (Marcus Williams) -- which celebrates the one-year anniversary of the showcase and the label next Thursday at Felix lounge in Adams Morgan. Producers include a few who've made beats for the likes of Wale and Cassidy, and one performer, radio's DJ Alizay, headed out recently on the Rock the Bells tour.

Stroll in early and you'll likely hear Alizay spinning '90s classic tracks or old school (Slick Rick, Black Sheep) and even some local music. One of the best things about the event: The producers appreciate other beatmakers' creations, and the crowd applauds for everyone. $10. Next Thursday at 10:30 p.m. 2406 18th St. NW. 202-276-3644 or visit http://www.innerlooprecords.com.


EXHIBIT "Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities" The next show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum makes an unlikely pairing of two artists who worked in very different mediums but were friends with a shared passion for the outdoors (they met in Taos, N.M., in 1929 and forged a friendship together with O'Keeffe's husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, that lasted for years). Adams, of course, captured many a landscape as one of the best-known photographers of the century, and O'Keeffe, a modernist painter, created landscapes and scenes in addition to her famed flower paintings. This touring exhibition, opening Sept. 26, gathers nearly 100 works from both the artists; you'll be surprised at the parallels in their work. Free. 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 26-Jan. 4. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Eighth and F streets NW. 202-633-1000.

ON STAGE Joel McHale The host of the E! network's bad-television roundup "The Soup," McHale somehow took the show's merely funny predecessor, "Talk Soup," and transformed its concept into something bordering on insane. The secret? His delivery, which is sometimes holier-than-thou, sometimes "I need to be medicated." We have no idea how this translates to the stage, but now is the chance to find out. He is about to embark on a stand-up tour that will bring him to the Warner Theatre this fall. Tickets go on sale tomorrow through Ticketmaster at 10 a.m. (You can also get tickets in person at the Warner box office to save a good chunk of the fees.) $33.50. Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. For details, visit http://www.warnertheatre.com.) Warner Theatre, 13th and E streets NW. 202-397-7328.



EXHIBIT "Jeux d'ombres" The Alliance Fran├žaise hosts a show of works by Alexandria-based printmaker and abstract painter Maryse Lortscher, who works in oils and acrylics. You may not know the artist, but why pass up a chance to check out the free reception at the Alliance tonight? Free (but reservations for the reception are required). 6:30 p.m. The show is up Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through Nov. 6. Alliance Fran├žaise de Washington, 2142 Wyoming Ave. NW. E-mail assistant@francedc.org or call 202-234-7911 to RSVP.

THE SCENE Smithsonian Trunk Show This fundraising market/event, which starts tonight at the National Building Museum and continues through the weekend, is called a "trunk show" because it features only those artists from the Smithsonian Craft Show who create wearable art -- jewelry and clothing with an artful twist. Tonight is the "advance chance party," with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and a chance to peek at the offerings, which come from 30 artists from across the country. Tomorrow and Sunday, you can still shop the show, sans party. Tickets for tonight's party are $35; the event is 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tomorrow and Sunday, $5; hours are 10 a.m-5 p.m. both days. Proceeds benefit the Smithsonian's education, research and outreach programs. National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. For details about tonight's party, call 888-832-9554 or visit http://www.trunkshow.smithsonian.org--


ON STAGE Sandra Bernhard: "Without You I'm Nothing" The bona fide celebrity and comic is in town for only a short stint with her one-woman show/cabaret-pop performance "Without You," which critic Peter Marks praised for its "gut-grabbing performer who has no qualms about opening her mouth and letting all manner of things fly out." With just over a week left, perhaps it's time to plan on seeing it. The show is at Theater J at the D.C. Jewish Community Center through Sept. 28. $45-$65 (patrons 25 and younger, half price). Saturday's 10:30 p.m. show still has tickets; other shows at various times. 1529 16th St. NW. 800-494-8497 or http://www.boxofficetickets.com.


THE SCENE Say Hello to Fall The DC Global Mala, a program of yoga education, vegetarian foods, performances of live kirtan music and dance demonstrations, marking the fall equinox and U.N. International Peace Day, returns on Sunday. The key event of the day is when participants perform 108 "sun salutations." And it's perhaps the first yoga workshop we've heard of that doesn't start at 9 a.m. Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 at the door and $20 for full-time students. Noon-6 p.m. Sept. 21. THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Ave. SE. For advance tickets and details, visit http://www.dcglobalmala.com.



THE SCENE Loda This weekly electronic music bash at Gallery returns with DJ favorite Sam Burns, Worthy and a hot-off-the-digital-camera slideshow from this year's Burning Man festival to set the mood (the festival, which takes place in the arid Nevada desert each year, ended Sept. 1). Don't forget to check out the space's "alley," a patio that rivals any roof deck. $10; $5 with password (get it by e-mailing info@eightyeightdc.com). 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Gallery, lower level, 1115 East West Hwy., Silver Spring. 301-589-2555 or http://www.eightyeightdc.com.


THE SCENE Swing Dancing at Glen Echo"Dancing With the Stars" starts up again next week, and since you'll be pinned to your sofa for several weeks straight watching Kim Kardashian's booty, um, Kim Kardashian samba head-to-head against poor 82-year-old Cloris Leachman (ageists!), perhaps you should get your own dancing bug out now. Saturday is Swing Dance night at the Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom. Radio King Orchestra, an old-time big band, performs live, and a free lesson is offered before the dancing starts. $13 (all ages). 9 p.m.-midnight; lesson at 8 p.m. Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. 301-634-2222 or http://www.glenechopark.org.



ON STAGE Bryan Callen Just as the new season of "Entourage" gets underway, Callen, who appeared on the show a couple of seasons ago, capitalizes on his recognizable face. See, this regular on "Oz" and "MADtv" and, more recently, guest on "How I Met Your Mother" had a good arc on "Entourage" as a pitch-perfect bad agent -- the un-Ari, who engaged in a little workplace sobbing after his wife left him for a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Of course, Ari fired him. But that means Callen can land here for a two-night run of stand-up at the Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse beginning tonight. Trivia: He's an American University alum. $20. Today and tomorrow at 9:45 p.m. 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington. 703-486-2345 or get tickets at http://www.arlingtondrafthouse.com.


THE SCENE Jane Franklin Dance's Skate-Park Shuffle Next month, this NoVa dance troupe will perform its multimedia piece "Breaking Ground" at a somewhat underground place -- an indoor skate park on Ninth Street NW, tying in the work's subject matter to the space. (Although no dancers actually hop up on skateboards during the performance, the piece does feature skateboarders in its projections.) Virginians can get a peek this weekend when "Breaking Ground" is performed outdoors in the 15,000-square-foot, government-sanctioned Powhatan Springs Skatepark, as the park remains open and skaters perform their tricks on the ramps. Free. 6:30 p.m. 6020 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-533-2362 or for more details about this and the Oct. 4 performance at the indoor park (tickets are $20), visit http://www.janefranklin.com.

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