This week's column is full of Bhangra Blowout parties; some great local bands, including a homecoming show for These United States; an exclusive Hot Chip DJ set; beer tapping parties for charity; beer pong for charity; the search for the city's top Big Buck Hunter; and two groups better described as an "experience" than a concert.
Wednesday, April 9
The new hot music venue in D.C.? That would be upper Northwest pizza spot Comet Ping Pong, of course. The restaurant, which rates an impressive **1/2 stars from Tom Sietsema, hosted a garage rock show with the Obits and the Points back in March, but things are quieting down for tonight's show with local alt-folkies Kitty Hawk (listen) and Vandaveer (listen). We've written about both bands, members of the Federal Reserve Collective, a bunch of times, so you know that Kitty Hawk is soldiering on as a duo, playing sparer versions of its hushed indie-folk songs, while Vandaveer plays very sincere, wordy fare. The show is $5, making it the cheapest thing on the menu.
Apparently Five's new management wishes to demonstrate a show of power by setting it off tonight with a couple of veritable hip-hop deities. You'd be hard pressed to find another hip-hop act who dropped their first single in 1985 and can still set crowds aflame today, but Slick Rick is that dude. With classics, charisma (what the kids call "swagger" these days) and style by the ton, Slick Rick is a mandatory study in crowd rocking for anyone who seriously considers himself a true b-boy. Roc Raida is his aethetic counterpart on the turntables. As one of the cornerstones of modern turntablism, Raida combines personality and a showman's flair with his flashy deck skills. A fortunate slate of locals kick off the show led by underground trooper T.A.M.U.
It's a good week for local beer fans. Shirlington's Capitol City Brewing Company and the Bethesda and Ballston Rock Bottom breweries have tapped new beers this week, and now the Gordon Biersch brewpubs are getting into the act. Both the D.C. and Rockville branches are unveiling their seasonal Maibock beers at tapping parties tonight. The D.C. party, a fundraiser for Special Olympics, runs from 5:30 to 7:30. It features free passed appetizers in the bar area, a costume contest with a Texas hoedown theme and free tastes of beer after the ceremonial keg tapping at 7 p.m. The silent auction for charity includes a football autographed by Redskin Chris Samuels, gift certificates to nearby restaurants and passes to Madame Tussaud's. Rockville, meanwhile, has a masquerade theme at its party, which runs from 6 to 8, along with a tasting and a buffet. Wear a costume or donate $5 to Special Olympics and pick one up at the bar.
As much as Fritz loves Skee-Ball and Wii bowling, too many late nights at Solly's and Pharmacy Bar have made Big Buck Hunter a favorite bar game -- especially when he's out with friends. (How can you not love the shootout round?) Challenging your boys at the bar is one thing, but beating a bunch of strangers is quite another. Find out how crack your shot is this month at Garrett's in Georgetown, as the bar hosts a Big Buck Hunter tournament every Wednesday through April 30. The games start at 9, and Budweiser and Bud Light drafts are $2. Prizes will be awarded to the top marksmen.
Thursday, April 10
This weekend is George Washington University's annual Bhangra Blowout, which draws teams of South Asian dancers from colleges and universities from around the country, whether or not they're competing in Saturday's main event. While that's the focus of attention, parties filled with Punjabi music are taking place all weekend long, just as events spring up around Howard University's homecoming. Tonight's "kickoff party" at Eyebar is geared toward college students -- check the 18-and-over age limit, which is unusual for the swank lounge. DJs Eyce, Khaly, V and Big Boi (a bhangra remixer from New Jersey, not one-half of Outkast) provide the beats, and admission is free before 11 if you e-mail email@example.com.
One of the first things taught in wine-tasting classes is to smell the wine -- a deep breath to identify tastes and scents within, not just whether or not it's fresh. So we have to wonder how tonight's Grapes With the Apes young professionals happy hour at the National Zoo is going to play out. The Great Ape House is one of the more, uh, "fragrant" buildings we've come across. Imagine trying to take a sniff of a wine from one of the participating vineyards and saying, "Yes, delightful hints of strawberries, a little plum and [sniff] feces!" Kidding aside, tonight's event includes food and drink from local and international wineries, tastes from D.C. restaurants, including Poste, Chef Geoff's, Tonic and Cafe Saint-Ex, and live jazz by Ready, Steady, Go. Tickets are $55, and proceeds go to aid the Zoo's conservation efforts.
Friday, April 11
If you missed out on tickets for Hot Chip at the 9:30 club tonight, well, good luck on Craigslist, friend. Hot Chip makes irresistibly funky electro-pop -- most indie-minded DJs in this town have spun "Ready for the Floor" or "Over and Over" at least once -- in the vein of LCD Soundsystem or New Order's synth-poppier moments. Anyway, if you're missing out on hearing songs from the new "Made in the Dark" CD, make your way over to the Black Cat for the monthly Sorted night. Hot Chip's coming over to spin a few records after the concert wraps up, and they'll be joined by Baltimore's exquisite Taxlo DJs, who run a killer party at Sonar, and resident DJ Stereo Faith. We fully expect this to be rammed, so make a beeline for the backstage. Admission is a mere $5.
While we're on the subject of awesome electro bands with new albums, Aussie group Cut Copy just hit #1 on its home country's charts with "In Ghost Colors." The slinky '80s synth-disco of "Lights & Music" has been burning up the music blogs, and while the band's not making its way to D.C. anytime soon, you can hear the band's music at a "Ghost Colors" album release party tonight at Town. DJs Mikey Vader and Ca$$idy, who first turned heads with their sexy Garutachi electro parties, are your hosts on the club's lower level, beginning at 11 p.m.
Back to the Bhangra Blowout, which is taking over H2O tonight for a "Pre-Party." DJ Gaurav -- or, as he's known on flyers in this town, NYC's DJ Gaurav -- makes his sixth annual appearance at the Blowout, and he's one of the best around when it comes to fashion-forward bhangra remixes as well as scratching up the latest hip-hop hits. He's joined by the Blazin' Beats DJs and a number of others on H2O's three dancefloors and waterfront deck. Admission for everyone 18 and over is $20 from Groovetickets.com.
Saturday, April 12
There's still more Bhangra Blowout to come today, with a day-long block party at GW on H Street NW between 20th and 21st streets. DJs Rekha (a frequent Black Cat headliner), Bikram Keith, B. Dosanjah and G-Deep spin bhangra and hits from noon to 4. A celebration of Vaisakhi Mela, an ancient Punjabi festival, it features, food, drink, music and carnival games for the whole family. The Blowout itself is at Constitution Hall at 7, but the fun doesn't stop there. Heritage India is the site of one of the largest annual afterparties, with live dhol drummers and a half-dozen DJs from New York, D.C. and Baltimore spinning bhangra remixes. (Expect to see plenty of Blowout contestants, as they're getting in free.) Tickets for the 18-and-over party are $20 from officialblowout.com.
Meanwhile, another afterparty at Five features DJ Bikram Keith, whose sets at the Bollywood Blowout parties always fill the floor, and DJ Nin9. This event is 18 and over, though the rooftop deck will be limited to 21-and-over patrons who either (a) buy a bottle or (b) pre-order tickets from Groovetickets. Dress to impress -- no sneakers, athletic wear or hats -- but dress to move comfortably, because the music goes until 5 a.m.
When black music in America started leaving tailored suits and then afros behind for Jheri curls and synthesizers, European music fiends hoarded their 45s and hunkered down in an effort to stop time from marching on. James Brown remained king, but even more so, high praise and higher price tags were lavished on obscure artists who never found fortune in the U.S., but whose rare funk recordings from the '50s through the '70s grew legendary abroad. For those who love dancing to the infectious soul of records recorded direct-to-tape in one take with fewer than five microphones for the whole band, check out Soulpower DJs at Eighteenth Street Lounge tonight. This duo has curated rare groove club nights from Hanover, Germany, to London to Paris and now Richmond, Virginia. DJ Pari and DJ Troy Hurt have expanded operations to include music production and tour booking for the some of the biggest heavyweights in the scene like Sharon Jones, Marva Whitney and RAMP. Gritty is indeed pretty.
You may have heard about an outlandish warehouse blowout this past Saturday night with, like, 20 DJs and very little decorum. If you were there, you're probably not reading this because you're still laid out on your couch. But if you didn't get a chance to behave badly and dance intensely you can holler at one of the event's primary miscreants at the Black Cat tonight. Chris Burns likes to collect the weirder tunes from the '70s and '80s dance music canon. It's stuff that doesn't show up on the usual compilations and refuses to fit nicely into disco, new wave or psych rock boxes. If that sounds like your flavor, then you can check out young Burns and his partner Ed Dudes for This Ain't No Disco.
If you like the Red & the Black, then you should try to make it there this week. Because it might not be there after Monotonix (listen) and Dark Meat (listen) get through with it on Saturday night. David experienced both of these bands at SXSW in Austin last month, and "experience" is definitely the best way to describe it. These two bands don't merely get up on stage and play songs; they assault your senses. Monotonix is an Israeli three-piece garage-scuzz rock band that performs in the middle of the crowd and incorporates audience members into its show, whether they like it or not. Frontman Ami Shalev, a very hairy, sure-to-be-shirtless 43-year-old, will stalk the crowd, pour your beer down his pants, maybe try to return the favor, dump a garbage can on his drummer (who looks exactly like Borat) and probably set his drums on fire. It's going to be insanity, and there's even going to be some good music thanks to the killer riffs being played by guitarist Yonatan Gat, who admitted to me that his main purpose during a show is "just to avoid the splashes of beer on my guitar because it makes the guitar rusty."
Monotonix is one of the few acts that could follow Dark Meat. My introduction to Dark Meat in Austin was when I was pelted in the skull by a bouncy ball one of their 17-or-so band members launched from the stage. Yes, about a quarter of the club's capacity will be accounted for simply with the band members. There's a full horn section, multiple guitarists and drummers and one dude who, at least in Austin, was there simply to throw dollar-store objects -- those bouncy balls, confetti, glowsticks, shakers -- into the crowd. The band plays trippy, heavy psych-rock jams and there's a very good chance that at least a handful of band members will be on lots of drugs while they play. (In Austin, frontman Jim McHugh stated upfront that they "all did too many drugs" last night.) Locals CTC (listen) and the Jet Age (listen) open and will hopefully get their instruments out of the club right after their sets are done.
Bring your frathouse gameface to R.F.D tonight to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. PhilanthroPONG is a 32-team beer pong tournament with cash prizes ($600) for the winners and gift certificates and Nats tickets for the runners up. More importantly, though, it's all for charity. Entry is $75 per person, which includes appetizers and unlimited beer (before, during and after games). Spectators can pony up $30, which includes unlimited food and drinks. See philanthropong.blogspot.com to sign up.
Sunday, April 13
It's a homecoming show for These United States (listen), who wrap up a five-week nationwide tour with tonight's headlining show on the Black Cat's mainstage. The band's absurdly long-titled "A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden" (they must have some sort of contest going with Le Loup) has made good impressions all over, even scoring a solid 75 on Metacritic. It's a very warm album that goes beyond simple folk with some electronic flourishes and full-band arrangements. Openers Wye Oak (listen) have a very good new album of their own, "If Children." The Baltimore duo, formerly known as Monarch, hit the indie-rock lottery with its recent signing to Merge Records, home of the likes of Arcade Fire and Spoon. Wye Oak has a much less adorned sound, playing tunes heavy on melodies and gradual builds that create an almost-shoegazey atmosphere.
Tuesday, April 15
The term "blown away" is probably the most egregiously overused platitude that people use to describe a show they liked, but the first time David saw Last Town Chorus (listen), that's the only way to describe how he felt. The band is the brainchild of Megan Hickey, who combines her angelic voice with some of the fiercest lap steel guitar playing you'll ever see. It makes for quite a combo, and Hickey is always on top of her game when she visits Iota. Why? Because after one Iota performance last year, a local concertgoer was so taken by her performance that when he visited Hickey's blog after the show and noted that she was pining for a Rickenbacher Electro lap steel guitar (price tag: $800), he simply purchased it for her. Now that's some serious fan support.
-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
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