IT'S BEEN nearly a year since the teasing, sexy ads for a new club called Spank first appeared. About six months ago I went to what was called the grand opening, on the third floor of the ultra-swank MCCXXIII (1223 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-822-1800) club. Then it abruptly closed, victim of the city's liquor board inspectors, who said that Spank needed its own liquor license and couldn't piggyback on the one for MCCXXIII.
Then the neighbors got involved saying that all the clubbing going on at 18th and Connecticut NW was causing trash and traffic problems and that they didn't want any club expansion. Finally, two weeks ago, Spank (silly name, no?) had another grand opening, with management proclaiming the licensing problems solved.
"We made a volunteer agreement with the neighborhood ANC," says Spank managing partner David Karim. "We agreed to have someone clean up all the flyers. Other clubs want our people, our clientele, so they come and put flyers on all the cars all over the neighborhood, and what do people do when they get in their cars to go home? They throw them on the ground. We'll help take care of some of that."
After the contretemps with his neighbors, Karim says Spank is ready to make its mark on Washington. The gimmick is the "beds," six white vinyl banquettes that aren't really beds at all. They're more like stretched out couches, lined up along the wall opposite the bar, hung with gauzy curtains that Karim and his partners hope scream "naughty!"
The idea comes from B.E.D., a hot South Beach club in Miami whose initials mean Beverages, Entertainment and Dining and which has a dozen big beds loaded with pillows for customers to lounge on. Spank's majority shareholder also owns 25 percent of B.E.D., and Karim says they were having a drink in Miami two years ago, and they thought, "Why not bring this to Washington." I'm not sure D.C. is ready for beds in its clubs, but I'll give these folks props for trying to liven things up.
Spank is painted all white and has nice, big chandeliers over the main part of the room (the dance floor between the beds and the bar), but they cast an oddly cold bright light on the proceedings. The sound system is unbelievably loud (mainly techno) and drinks aren't cheap. (And if you want to party behind those gauzy curtains, be prepared to pony up serious bucks for bottle service, if you've got a bed reserved.) Karim says the general public is welcome for about two more weeks, and then he plans to turn Spank into a members-only club.
So if you need another velvet rope joint that's hard to get into, visit Spank soon (it's open Fridays and Saturdays only), before it gets even more difficult to get into.
When saxophonist Doc Night was attending George Washington University 20 years ago, he thought he'd become a diplomat and save the world. But he felt his course work was too conservative, so he decided to become a music major. But then the director of the music program asked him whether he wanted to teach music or become a live performer. "When I told him I really just wanted to play," Night remembers, "he said, 'Well, why don't you just get out and play?' "
Night, the stage name of a family man whose day job is an assets manager for a mortgage banker, listened to that G.W. music director and has been in bands ever since. A lifelong Washingtonian, Night has played area clubs in bands like the Static Disruptors and Outrage (go-go/funk/punk), Scream (punk), H.R. (punk/reggae), the Psychotics (New Wave) and Riot Squad (ska/reggae).
Now he fronts one of Washington's most dynamic bands, the Hipnotix, a seven-piece combo that brings together all the styles of Night's previous bands, and adds some dancehall reggae toasting and hip-hop MC-ing to the mix. He's the lead singer and songwriter as well, and feels that it's his job to bring as much music as possible to the Hipnotix's table. "I don't sit around saying, 'Let's do this kind of hybrid and that kind of hybrid,' " Night says, "but I hear music that way in my head, all those different genres together, and nowadays, variety is the name of the game. People have so many stimuli now, I think as an artist, you almost have to come that way."
In the '80s, while in the well-regarded band Outrage, Night befriended members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys and Faith No More before they became huge with their own genre-blending sounds. "A good number of people I knew became famous," he says, "and now and then I want to shout, 'Hey! What about me!' " He's laughing when he says it, but c'mon all you record execs, what about Night?
Hear him perform in the Hipnotix with Doug Hale (trombone), Brad King (bass), Jonathan Pang (drums), Jeff Freed (guitar), Kofi Rozzell (keyboards) and Mark Allred (trumpet) on Thursday at Modern (3287 M St. NW; 202-338-7027). for more information, go to www.thehipnotix.com.
"It's pretty much Verlette's brainchild," admits Pam Steinfeld about Ubervox, the Washington-based women's music collective that celebrates its first anniversary this week. "A bunch of us were talking at the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest last year, saying how there needed to be an organized network of women musicians in the area, and Verlette just ran with it."
She's talking about Verlette Simon, who laid out the goals and gave the group its name. She got together with Steinfeld and some other area performers -- Michelle Swan, Rachel Cross, Joanne Juskus, Morrigan Condo, Leslie Brueckner -- and created Ubervox on the premise that there would be strength in numbers.
"Our first goal at that time was to create performance opportunities," Steinfeld says, "to cultivate venues in this area where multiple women could play on the same bill. And that would lead to more exposure for all of us, more networking opportunities, a chance to play with each other and to bring in out-of-town performers, and to maybe mentor other up-and-coming female artists."
And in just 12 months, all of that has happened. Ubervox has hosted more than a dozen shows at places like Jammin' Java in Vienna, Washington's now defunct Metro Cafe and the Bottom Floor in Baltimore. "People now associate the name Ubervox with, frankly, a really fun concert," Steinfeld says. "So many of the performers know each other, but since we all have our own performance schedules we don't see each other much, so when we do, there's excitement about sharing the stage, singing with each other, lots of hugging and stuff," she says laughing. Another aspect I like about the shows is that they're fairly informal, with performers chatting with the audience from the stage, and there's a real interaction."
Each Ubervox show has six or seven acts, with two or three featured performers playing a 30- to 40-minute set, and the others getting cameo appearances of maybe 15 minutes. "You get to see so many people in one night, the chances of you loving at least one of the artists is pretty high," Steinfeld says. "Every show is like a mini-festival in a way." You can be considered for an Ubervox show by submitting your music to the group, and there's information on how to do that on the Web site, www.ubervox.com.
Ubervox celebrates its birthday with a night of music Wednesday at Art-O-Matic (www.artomatic.org), and another on Nov. 9 at the Bottom Floor inside Baltimore's St. John's United Methodist Church of Hamilton (410-426-8177).
In last week's cover story on house concerts, I got Josh Sisk's name wrong. Sisk hosts punk rock house shows at his Adelphi group house, dubbed the Dirt Farm, and there's one tonight featuring Charm City Suicides, Vincent Price's Orphan Powered Death Machine, Loaded for Bear and the Shadows and the Silence. Check out www.recordnerd.com/dirtfarm/ for directions and more information.
Let's talk, shall we? Click on the Washingtonpost.com Web page Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. to chat with me about the state of local night life and local music. Gripes and cheers, random thoughts, share them on the "Live Online" page.