This week's top five events:
Wednesday: In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead - is a time to remember friends and family members who have passed away. At the Wonderland Ballroom, it’s a night to remember the late country-rock pioneer Graham Parsons, whose birthday is Nov. 5, and other deceased musicians. The night is hosted by the Highballers , a local rootsy country-rock band whose twangy guitars and tight harmonies recall Parsons and Waylon Jennings. There will be a Day of the Dead altar near the stage for anyone who wishes to add a picture or memento of loved ones, and the bar will be pouring pints of Chocolate City Beer’s Cerveza Nacional, a dark and tasty Vienna lager.
Friday: DC9’s Liberation Dance Party, where you may be bopping around to a Beastie Boys, Kasabian or Little Dragon track at any given moment, brings a suitably genre-agnostic live performer to the stage for its seventh anniversary party. V.V. Brown ’s look hovers somewhere between Janelle Monae and Nicki Minaj, but the British model, songwriter and performer was brewing her pastiche of styles in England years before either of those icons came to prominence. The sound is pop with retro touches, from doo-wop to R&B to the jazz, hip-hop and punk that influenced her early career. Brown has achieved a number of milestones in Europe, including selling out tours and hitting the top spot on the French digital albums charts, and she is making another run at stateside stardom with her new album, “Lollipops & Politics.”
Friday: The city-wide FotoWeek begins Saturday — you can read Lavanya Ramanathan’s essential guide on the Going Out Guide blog — but the action really kicks off Friday night with a venue-hopping Launch Party . From 5 to 8:30 p.m., there’s an exclusive preview of the main exhibition at FotoWeek Central (the old Borders Books at Connecticut and L). Then the party moves over to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, where the Fatback DJs spin funk, soul and R&B tunes while huge images from this year’s exhibitions are projected on the walls, and the galleries are open for exploring. One ticket ($55) covers admission to both events, as well as hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and wine all night.
Friday: The Beets are about as ramshackle as indie rock gets. See the New York trio live and you’ll find all three members hopping around onstage - and that includes the drummer, who stands up while playing his minimal kit, allowing him to bounce around like his band mates. Maybe they’ll sing into the microphone, maybe their heads will be bobbing so much that they’ll miss a few lines. But that’s fine, because perfection is far from the goal - the Beets play simple, bratty, rough-around-the-edges songs, the kind you can trace back to the Ramones. The Beets don’t play as fast and loud as their New York forefathers but are just as catchy and plenty messy. This performance is in conjunction with We Fought the Big One, the monthly post-punk DJ night at Marx Cafe. Members of the Beets will spin some of their favorite songs after they play.
Saturday: U.K. folk trio Peggy Sue plays breakup songs that are incredibly vibrant. Some heartbroken bands get sleepy and introspective, but Peggy Sue’s sad tales bursts to life with organic arrangements that feature finely plucked guitars, dramatic accordion and rumbling percussion. There’s something uplifting about a song such as “Lover Gone,” even with a title so transparent that you know something sad has just gone down. The creative arrangements also keep the songs from sounding the same; the band may work within one mind-set, but it has a wide musical spectrum. They’re at Montserrat House on Saturday with AM and Shawn Lee , who, like most Eighteenth Street Lounge artists, create lush, polynational electronic music that’s perfect for lounging with a cocktail. But the cross-Atlantic duo layer their work with retro wah-wah guitars, trilling woodwinds and sharp sing-along melodies.
Like these ideas? You’ll find 10 more picks for the week after the jump.
Tuesday, Nov. 1
St. Vincent ’s albums are filled with impeccable mini-symphonies that show Annie Clark to be one of the most careful song constructionists making music today. Her pretty pop songs sound a little dirtier — and arguably better — when she plays them live. See her at the 9:30 Club.
Thursday, Nov. 3
It’s party time in St. Louis: The Cardinals are World Series champions and the Saint Louis Brewery, the city’s largest locally owned brewery and makers of Schlafly Beer , is about to mark its 20th anniversary. Raise a pint at ChurchKey with Schlafly co-founder Dan Kopman to celebrate at 6 p.m. tonight. Twenty Schlafly beers will be on tap, including four that have never made their way to this area before.
Looking for a rap show on Thursday that’s the complete opposite of the “luxury rap” that Jay-Z and Kanye West will be presenting at Verizon Center? Astronautalis , performing at DC9, is the alias of Charles Bothwell, a Minnesota rapper whose songs feature intricate stories and tightly wound beats with no trace of excess.
Washington’s soul scene is tight-knit and supportive, developing several artists with enough talent to garner Grammy nominations. The Songwriters Association of Washington presents a showcase at Blues Alley featuring a few mainstays from the scene as well as a number of emerging singers, including Deborah Bond, TolumiDE and Levi Stephens. 2010 Budweiser Superfest “Battle for the Crown” winner Darien is also featured.
Saturday, Nov. 5
Metro Area — the New York duo of Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani — has created some of the past decade’s most memorable dance music, a fusion of disco, new wave and house that is by turns woozy, bubbly and deeply funk, but always ready to pull listeners to the dance floor. Geist celebrates his birthday with a special Metro Area set at U Street Music Hall.
Punk’s Backyard Grill is known for its barbecue, good beer selection and casual outdoorsy atmosphere. Now the Annapolis Mall restaurant has added a bar to the equation. The kickoff party features $3 New Belgium beers on four of the 10 taps and 10 signature cocktails for $5 each, including one made with the house IPA, Draft Punk, which is brewed by Baltimore’s Oliver Ales. Sweeten the deal with giveaways and 10 percent off all food from 4 to 10 p.m.
“Document the Fresh” is an exhibit at Lamont Bishop Gallery displaying photography from the high-pressure realm of the concert photo pit, snapped through the lenses of female photographers. Rosina “Teri” Memolo, Dafna Steinberg and Vickey Ford have logged thousands of hours chronicling the D.C. music scene and even more mileage covering major music events for publications. The exhibit’s opening party features a performance by hip-hop beat scientist Nick Tha 1da and free drinks.
Sunday, Nov. 6
Hip-hop label Duck Down Records was founded in the mid-’90s, and its acts show a high appreciation for the classics. Skyzoo keeps the J Dilla tradition alive and will be joined by Kid Daytona and standout local Uptown XO at U Street Music Hall.
Monday, Nov. 7
George Washington was more than the father of our country: He was the father of the American whiskey industry. Dennis Pogue, the associate director of Mount Vernon, discusses his new book , “Founding Spirits,” at the National Press Club’s First Amendment Lounge. Because it’s not fair to talk about whiskey if you can’t sip it, the Distilled Spirits Council will also lead a whiskey tasting and offer classic cocktails.