Friday, Jan. 4
Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club at the GALA Hispanic Theatre: Part performance art, part comedy and all delicious pop-culture kitsch, Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club is an annual tradition for Washingtonians. Seven highly choreographed bouts between real and imaginary foes — previous years have included Freddie Mercury vs. Queen Elizabeth II or Redskins owner Daniel Snyder vs. a Native American — veer off in unexpected directions, while burlesque dancers and trivia contests entertain between rounds. Truly a night like no other. 10:30 p.m. (All other shows sold out.) $25-$35.
Rob Stokes at Songbyrd: Ask Rob Stokes how he learned to write such topsy-turvy, achy-breaky love songs, and he’ll explain how he got his start in an acid-jazz troupe that once landed a gig playing fusion inside a Pittsburgh grocery store. After that, things got weird. Stokes moved to the District for college and into a Foggy Bottom group house, where he could host psychedelic jam sessions (he’d play the drums) and throw DIY rap shows (he’d befriend the rappers and, before long, was producing their tracks). All of these musical adventures quietly saturate “Live at the Heartbreak Hotel,” an album of fluid, polyglot pop spiked with splashes of “Tropicalia, bossa [nova], blues, punk and no-wave,” the 25-year-old says. 8 p.m. $10-$12.
The Maine Dinner showcase at Rustico Ballston: The Ballston branch of Rustico has been a staple for DMV beer lovers throughout the years. Greg Engert, the beer director for parent company Neighborhood Restaurant Group, has taught beer appreciation classes there, and in July 2018, a beer garden opened up in the courtyard next to Rustico for the summer months. On Friday, the eatery will host Maine Beer Company and tap eight different offerings, including Dinner, a double IPA that is one of Maine’s most sought-after beers. 5 p.m. Free admission; food and drink prices vary.
Bluegrass & Beer Festival at Union Stage: This is a beer pairing we can really get behind. Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company sponsors a night of free local bluegrass at the Wharf, featuring longtime D.C. favorites Hollertown and Split String Soup. There will, of course, be plenty of fresh Port City beer on tap, including Long Black Veil Black IPA and the rare Dunkel lager. 8 p.m. Free.
First Friday at various Dupont Circle locations: While the Smithsonian is shut down, it’s the perfect time to check out some of the District’s overlooked galleries, starting starting with Dupont Circle’s monthly First Friday. Three local artists will debut their exhibitions at the IA&A at Hillyer, which will be catered by Lebanese Taverna for a suggested donation of $8. If you want to be the artist, the ArtJamz studio will be hosting “Party Like Banksy,” giving would-be artists an hour of studio time to draw what comes to mind on the walls. Admission is $15 and includes a drink. 6 to 8 p.m. Prices vary.
Super MAGFest at Gaylord National Resort: For four days, over 20,000 gaming enthusiasts from around the world will gather — many in cosplay — at National Harbor for the annual Music and Gaming Festival, also known as Super MAGFest. Unlike most video-game conventions, MAGFest retains an independent business model — the event eschews major corporate sponsors and instead relies on donations and ticket sales to drive its nonprofit operations. The festival’s robust schedule offers nearly 96 straight hours of gaming tournaments, panel discussions, educational lectures, live music, vendors, and access to hundreds of arcade, tabletop, LAN and console games. It’s an ambitious and outlandish event that should appeal to both die-hard gamers and curious spectators. Through Sunday. $75-$85.
Saturday, Jan. 5
Bent LGBTQ dance party at the 9:30 Club: When Town Danceboutique closed last year, it left a sizable void in Washington’s LGBTQ nightlife scene. But DJ Lemz hopes to carry on Town’s legacy with his new queer dance party. Bent’s inaugural show at 9:30 Club features an eclectic range of dance music from Lemz along with fellow local DJs Keenan Orr and Barber Streisand, in addition to stage performances from Pussy Noir, Donna Slash and Bombalicious Eklaver. Bent is built on the promise of offering a safe space that’s free of judgment from the outside world, even if it’s just for one night. Doors open at 10 p.m. $15.
Big Ups at Comet Ping Pong: Even with a devoted underground following, it’s hard to stay afloat as a touring band in 2019. Brooklyn quartet Big Ups have released three albums of post-hardcore-affected howls about the chaos of trying to get by in this world, but after nine years of grinding it out, they’re going back to their normal lives. The band’s last tour of the Northeast stops at Comet Ping Pong on Saturday night, where they’ll be joined by Flasher, one of D.C.’s best post-punk bands. 10 p.m. $10.
Orquesta Akokán at the Kennedy Center: The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage continues to be one of the best places to immerse yourself in the exciting music that pops up all over the world. This Saturday, the venue plays host to the Cuban 12-piece big band Orquesta Akokán (akokán means “from the heart”), fronted by singer José “Pepito” Gómez. Their 2018 self-titled debut album is an eclectic, hip-moving mix of brass that feels beamed to the 21st century directly from the liveliest nightclub in 1960s Havana. 6 p.m. Free.
Teen Night at the U.S. Botanic Garden: No adults allowed — without a teenager. The U.S. Botanic Garden, one of the few government-funded operations still open during the shutdown, is holding an after-hours night for 13- to 17-year-olds to explore the conservatory and spot some of the in-bloom flowers, such as the lollipop flower and desert rose. There will be hands-on activity stations led by staff throughout the night. 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Free; preregistration required.
Sunday, Jan. 6
Free community day at National Museum of Women in the Arts: Haven’t gotten a chance to see the Rodarte showcase or artist Ambreen Butt’s exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts? January will be your lucky month. Sunday is the museum’s Community Day with free admission to the downtown museum to check out all of the ongoing displays. (The third weekend of the month will have free admission as well.) As a bonus, “Woodshock,” the 2017 movie starring Kirsten Dunst — directed by the Mulleavy sisters, of Rodarte fame — will be screening free in the performance hall. Noon to 5 p.m. Free.
Three Kings Day celebration at various locations: This Christian holiday that celebrates the Gift of the Magi goes by many names: Three Kings Day, Twelfth Night, Epiphany and El Día de los Reyes Magos. The Spanish-speaking community of the District usually goes all out to mark the occasion. The GALA Theater in Columbia Heights will have a lighter celebration this year than years past, but actors portraying the three wise men will still be there to greet children and give out gifts. The Bethesda branch of Jaleo will host a Three Kings Day family brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which includes a performance of the biblical story from Glen Echo’s kid-friendly Adventure Theatre. Children 10 and under will get free slices of king cake and hot chocolate. GALA: 2 to 3 p.m. Free. Jaleo: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Food and drink prices vary.
— Hau Chu, Fritz Hahn, Chris Richards and Stephanie Williams