AND YOU THOUGHT the late Elliott Smith sounded excessively disconsolate? Jamie Stewart, mopey frontman for the Bay Area band Xiu Xiu, specializes in dreary music that seems to have him positioned as the new king of manic-depressive indie pop -- or at the very least pop music's latest prince of darkness. But Stewart and Xiu Xiu's music isn't just the fragile sound of despondency. On its new album "La Fort," the group -- basically Stewart plus multi-instrumentalist Caralee McElroy -- spikes the dark punch with some seriously spasmodic instrumentation and hyper-
emo screams. The jarring soft-LOUD dynamics remind that, unlike Mr. Smith, Stewart is actually alive and well enough to go to Washington, etc.
-- J. Freedom du Lac
At the Warehouse Next Door, 1017 Seventh St. NW. Wednesday at 9 p.m. $8. Call 202-783-3933 or visit www.warehousetheatre.com.
THE TEENSY INDEPENDENT film "Funny Ha Ha" became a modest sensation when it toured the festival circuit a couple of years ago, and it finally makes its way to the Washington area Friday for a two-week run at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. Andrew Bujalski's wry look at the work and love lives of a bunch of recent Boston college grads earned the writer-director a "Someone to Watch" prize at last year's Independent Spirit Awards -- and for good reason. This grainy little drama has the off-the-cuff humor and authenticity that characterized the early work of pioneers such as John Cassavetes and Rick Linklater. Indeed, "Funny Ha Ha" has often been compared to Linklater's "Slacker," a felicitous coincidence considering that Bujalski's leading lady is Kate Dollenmayer, an Austin animator who worked on Linklater's "Waking Life." The hangdog young actress proves to be an unexpectedly winning personality as her sad-sack character bumbles through unemployment, too much partying and a frustrated crush. Bujalski -- who co-stars as one of Dollenmayer's suitors -- has a canny eye and ear for the experience of young adults, who often express themselves with the same false starts and hesitations that seem to make up their lives.
-- Ann Hornaday
At the AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Rd., through Sept. 15. Admission is $9.25 ($7.50 for AFI members, students and seniors). For ticket and showtime information, call 301-495-6700 or visit www.afi.com/silver.
EVERY SOCIETY HAS its version of couture, and the 19th-century rulers of Central Asia were no exception. Their fine garments were woven and decorated to convey power and class. Dyed and patterned greatcoats, embroidered hats, belts slung with pouches and elaborate sheaths proclaimed lofty position with pride and artistry. Thirty-eight fragile examples are included in "Silk & Leather: Splendid Attire of 19th-Century Central Asia," which opens Friday at the Textile Museum. Few of the articles have been exhibited before or pictured in scholarly publications. All but two are privately owned.
The clothing and purses are made of luxurious silk, which nomadic conquerors extorted from China, as well as leather, felt and fur. Even in the heat of August, such fashions present a clear challenge to the boring Western business suit.
-- Linda Hales
At the Textile Museum, 2320 S St. NW, through Feb. 26. Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 1-5 p.m. Suggested donation $5. Call 202-667-0441 or visit www.textilemuseum.org.
SOME OF THE WORKS may be shaky, embryonic, but you'll be among the first to hear them if you attend the Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage New Play Festival. More than 25 Washington area theaters are offering readings of new pieces, by theater types as varied as local product Ken Ludwig and Chinese opera luminary Qian Yi. The subjects being explored range from Iraq to adult bookstores.
-- Peter Marks
At the Kennedy Center. Saturday through Sept. 5, 3-10 p.m. Free. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.