Thursday, February 12
You may have heard that Patty Boom Boom is closing at the end of February. This week is the final 95 Live retro dance party at the U Street dance hall, and a killer selection of DJs has assembled to take turns on the decks. Harry Hotter, Tom Lim, Trayze and Spinser Tracy are among the guests. Doors open at 10 p.m.
The party on the rooftop of the W Hotel is called "Heartbreak Hotel," but we love everything about the buzzy synth-pop and house coming from Outputmessage, Pleasure Curses and Furniteur. There's no cover charge, which makes the $10 house cocktails more appealing, but you do have to RSVP. Doors open at 7:30, and the music begins at 8.
Friday, February 13
Lauryn Hill is coming back to D.C.! The prospect of seeing her at the Howard Theatre is either thrilling, because she's one of the most important female voices in black music in recent decades, or ominous, due to her, uh, eccentric nature as of late. But this is the weekend of love, so we're going to put positive vibes out there that Ms. Hill will do the Howard Theatre stage justice. That place has good mojo.
James Zabiela innovated mix techniques on CD decks that rival the innovations of turntablists decades earlier. In fact, he could be considered a pioneer of the Pioneer music players that became de-facto equipment in the post-vinyl world. His sets bring more creative dynamics to the electro-house played more conservatively by other DJs in his lane. Zabiela was quietly pushing back against the push-button EDM wave of DJs before they became rock stars, so while you can still rave your face off to his sets, the performance is definitely more compelling. Zabiela shares the booth with DJ Lisa Frank at U Street Music Hall.
Bloomingdale is turning into the perfect neighborhood for a little bar hopping. The ideal way to spend this Friday night: Dinner at the bar at Red Hen, then whiskey and beer at Boundary Stone. Work off the calories at El Camino, the Southern California-inspired restaurant that promises to turn into a sweaty dance party when DJ Rusty B of the All Good Funk Alliance jumps on the turntables. (The dress code for the free Pre-Valentine's Day Leggings Dance Party is "leggings/tights/yoga pants/spandex.") And when you're ready for a nightcap, Showtime is right across the street.
Saturday, February 14
There is so. Much. Going. On.
Romantics who want to pretend they're in a movie, wooing their loves to a sound of a brassy big band, should make tracks for the Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom, where the Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra performs swinging hits and sentimental favorites at the Red Dress Ball. If you (or your sweatheart) are shy on the dance floor, there's a free beginner swing dance lesson from 8 to 9, followed by dancing until midnight. No advance tickets are needed.
The popular Mixtape Dance Party, which plays everything from Rihanna to Royksopp to Whitney Houston, is shaking it off at the 9:30 Club, and seems like the best group destination of the night.
Only a certain kind of couple goes to the Black Cat on Valentine's Day: The kind that loves dark, kinda dingy clubs and vestiges of pre-Le Diplomate 14th Street. These folks know that every V-Day, longtime Black Cat bartender Chad America and his friends host the annual Valentine's Rock N Roll Dance Party where the soundtrack is early rock and roll and '50s and '60s R&B. Let other people wait in line for tables at Barcelona (WHY? WHY?); whether you're a pair or hanging out with single friends, the Black Cat is where the good times roll on 14th Street.
If you don't want to spend Valentine's Day budget on cards and flowers and chocolate, you can send some of that money to people who can really use it. The Friends With Benefits happy hour at Cafe Saint-Ex benefits Best Buddies, a non-profit organization that provides one-on-one activities, friendship and job training for children and adults with developmental disabilities. A $37.50 donation to Best Buddies gets you hors d'oeuvres, champagne, happy hour drink specials and dancing from 6:30 to 9:30. Tickets are available in advance or at the door.
The Red Derby offers one of the most neutral Valentine's Day parties you'll find anywhere. Want to celebrate your love or singledom? Enjoy $4 glasses of sparkling wine and free chocolates. Don't care about a stupid Hallmark holiday? There are $4 glasses of Old Overholt whiskey with optional free chocolates.
Impala Cantina is one of the cooler places to dine on H Street. Get some quality, non-chain Mexican paired with some noteworthy tequilas before your adventures later in the evening. It opens up a bit once Maracuyeah sets up on the second level. With their combination of tropical cumbia and other cutting-edge latin dance sounds, Impala turns into a sweaty dance party. Still classy, of course, but shedding some inhibitions.
Sunday, February 15
There's no better time for a tiki fix than mid-winter. This weekend, Owen Thomson of Bar Pilar and Jason Strich of Hank's on the Hill are kicking off Guerrilla Drinks, a collaboration that will pop-up at bars around the city every other month. Each one will have a different theme, inspired by "one of our favorite bars in the country," Strich says. The debut, in Cafe Saint-Ex's basement Gate 54 Lounge, is modeled on Chicago's retro-tiki drinking den Three Dots and a Dash. The menu includes 10 cocktails, most of which will sell for $10, "but we'll put our own spin on them," Strich promises. Think skull-shaped 16-ounce glasses made out of ice, and draft cocktails flowing from a pirate's treasure chest. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Mardi Gras isn't until Tuesday, but when Monday's a holiday, there's no reason not to start the celebrations a little early. Local arts organization Arts Soiree brings a bit of New Orleans to the downtown Sofitel with its annual Mardi Gras Masquerade. Don a mask and a black-tie outfit, enjoy cocktails and dance to a New Orleans-style jazz band. Tickets are $20 ($30 for a couple's ticket), and the event runs from 8 p.m. to midnight.