DOCTOR NIGHTLIFE is so taken aback by the approaching end of summer that she plans to flee into the past -- the distant past, via the Maryland Renaissance Fair (970-2188). Boots, horses, capes and Samuel Middleton Ale -- just what the Doctor ordered. More prosaically: FRIDAY
UPPITY BLUES ENCORE -- Saffire's slighty belated record-release party in Baltimore is actually a triple celebration: Those Uppity Blues Women were just named the blues act most deserving of wider recognition (sort of the best new act category) in the Downbeat critics' poll; opening act Linwood Taylor won the Baltimore Blues Society's amateur blues contest and is taking off this weekend for the finalsin Memphis; and the 8 X 10 is showing off its increasing prosperity the way working types always have -- by a spreading midsection. Check out the expanding view, and excuse any sawdust ($6; 301/625-2001).
FOOD FOR THE SOUL -- Four area bands, and maybe a few guests, perform a free concert to benefit Lazarus at the Gate, a Northern Virginia food bank that helps supply McKenna's Wagon and others. Bands include Party Akimbo, Fourth Wall, Slug Patrol and the Meat Bees; music begins at noon at Lee District Park on Telegraph Road two miles south of the Beltway in Alexandria. Concertgoers are asked to bring canned goods and non-perishables; for information call 533-0328.
FOGGY MOUNTAIN BREAK -- Several of the finest performers of traditional and Appalachian folk music -- Madeline MacNeil, with husband Seth Austin and renowned bassist/cellist Ralph Gordon; and songwriter/storyteller John McCutcheon -- perform in the pavilion on the grounds of the historic 19th-century Orkney Springs Hotel resort, in the George Washington National Forest near the West Virginia border. (If you stay till Sunday night, the timeset warps forward to the big band era for Doc Scantlin and His Imperial Palms Orchestra.) Pavilion seats $12.50 and $10; lawn seats $8, $4 for students and $1 children. From Washington take I-66 to I-81 south; take Exit 69 east onto Route 703 and turn right onto Route 11; drive into Mount Jackson, turn right (west) on Route 263 and drive 15 miles to Orkney Springs; 703/459-3396.
LABOR DAY LIMBO -- Fill the last, long weekend with a "Labor Day Jump-Up" featuring the Image Band's blend of calypso and reggae, starting at 10 p.m. at Temple Israel on University Boulevard in Silver Spring. Tickets $10 in advance (Kilimanjaro, M&L Bakery and Mike & Rita's Roti Shop) or $12 at the door; 765-6268.
LAST CALL ON THE CANAL -- The last Concert on the Canal for 1990 begins at 1:30 at the Foundry Mall between 30th and Thomas Jefferson streets in Georgetown; the Keyth Lee Gospel Singers start soft, and Cowboy Jazz winds it up with a kick; for more information call 866-6213.
IF I HAD A HAMMER -- "Mambazo" means hammer, which is also how "Maccabee" translates. Some images in the struggle for freedom, and in music, are universal. The moving and infectiously optimistic Ladysmith Black Mambazo opens for Harry Belafonte, the original world-beat star, at Wolf Trap (pavilion $25, lawn seats $15; 432-0200).
X MARKS THE SPOT -- For all the smart angularity of his work with X, and the band's identification with the "seminal" Los Angeles punk scene, John Doe has always retained a taste for the plain country twang, the blacktop rider's hardluck stories and border bar-band blues. (It's no accident that Blaster Dave Alvin was a latter-day X man; and in fact Doe's new album could be considered an extension of the "Fourth of July" style.) "Meet John Doe" in a way is like Springsteen's "Nebraska" -- not that it's so bleak, and it has plenty of name guests -- but that it so persuasively exposes the populist roots of a writer who seemed so postmodern (9:30 club: $9, 393-0930).
THE WIDER RANGE -- In their early "Trinity Sessions" incarnation, the Cowboy Junkies seemed to have floated in on the craze for chilly, ethereal neo-folkies that has crested with Lori Carson; but while so many other bands have been stepping back, offering distance as insight, Margo Timmins has been moving closer and growing warmer. Something similar might be said for Bruce Hornsby, whose recent collaborations (Don Henley, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) have lifted his eyes from his own keyboard and shown him the creative possibilities of ensemble work. The Cowboy Junkies and Hornsby & the Range join forces at Wolf Trap ($22 pavilion, $14 lawn seats; 432-0200).
PARTY ON, WAYNE! -- It's the World According to Garth, when "Saturday Night Live" basement headbanger Dana Carvey comes to GWU's Smith Center ($15; 432-0200). This is the tai chi version of comedy -- the George Bush hand-chop, the Johnny Carson lip pass, and the pump you up! bicep thrust. Incidentally, have you ever thought how many American catchphrases owe their genesis (as the Church Lady might say) to "SNL"? Now isn't that special?
STRINGING ALONG -- Hump Day is turning into guitar-hero day: Danny Gatton at Club Soda; Bill Kirchen at Malarkey's; the Fabulous Young Irish Geeks (the Cotter/Kennedy/Carroll version) at Durty Nelly's; Tom Principato at the Wharf. You choose.
MULTIPLE IMAGES -- Little Women has the kind of identity crisis we mild-mannered-by-day guardians of contemporary culture can really identify with -- noir-iste lyrics a` la Tragically Hip; arrangements that are equal parts R&B, zydeco, heavy boogie and reggae; and a name that belies not only sex and size (like the Violent Femmes, Little Women is all-male) but its often furious social commentary. "God, Guts and Guns," which recalls the massacre of five California schoolchildren by a misfit wielding an AK-47, has already gotten some attention; but the gem is "Montana," a chambered nautilus of images: "Baby takes her conscience and lights it up like Yellowstone/Lights it like a cigarette/Lights it like a shot right to her head." This is ethnic adventuresomeness with intelligence; no wonder the band has developed close ties to El-Rayo X (at the Bayou: $5, 333-2897).