Tag Archives: DC

two bars three stars: cuff at napoleon

1 Mar

I have previously expressed my affinity for DC’s smorgasbord of monthly dance parties because hey, I’m a creature of habit.

But while All Things Gold, Fatback, and Che Sera remain my nightlife utopias, a new event has caught my eye in a big way. This new fiesta, going down for the second time ever tomorrow night, has a very real chance of shotgunning to the top of the highly exclusive “Steph’s Monthly Party Schedule” list (admissions are always rolling).

So, what is this new event, and why am I so convinced it will be bomb.com? Well, it’s called Cuff, and it’s happening at Napoleon- there’s reason  #1. Napoleon is one of my favorite bars in DC, and it’s the perfect place for a weeknight dance party. Stylish decor, pretty people, pretty bartenders, champagne  and St. Germaine abound, crucial soundsystem, what more could I want? Plus, during the week you can usually get your groove on a little more freely than during the packed weekend nights.

Now, onto the lineup: we got Sanitize, Starks & Nacey (2/3 of Nouveau Riche), and Lightwaves. Oh hey DC DJ Dream Team, what up.

Especially regarding Sanitize, Starks, and Nacey, Cuff’s organizers couldn’t have picked a group of DJs more near and dear to my heart. I have seen each of those guys spin more times than I can count, but I always come back for more because they never let me down. In fact, when I wrote my first local music feature for Scoutmob DC, I turned to these guys to help me compile a playlist of tracks hand-selected by my favorite DC DJs. That’s how I highly I value their beat-selecting abilities.

Lightwaves is also a frequent fixture at my DC nightlife destinations , notably when he’s filling Bourbon to the brim or manning the turntables during All Things Gold at UHall. If a DJ can set himself apart in stacked lineups that have included The Knocks, St. Lucia, and US Royalty, he’s doing something right. Plus, Lightwaves’ more vocal-heavy tracks will be a perfect way to round out the evening, and they will keep the crowd on its toes all night.

As if you needed further convincing, sample tracks for your listening pleasure. If these tracks and $4 rails until 11 p.m. can’t get you to Napoleon on a Thursday night, I question your judgment.

Lightwaves, “Spirit Gun”

Sanitize, Germ Free Mix Vol. 4

Starks and Nacey, “Neva Get Caught”

i was there: real estate at black cat, 1.22

30 Jan

Exactly one week ago, I saw a really amazing show. A show that I did not anticipate would be as amazing as what transpired that night. So amazing that I needed a week to let it resonate—to gather my thoughts, to let the impressions stew, to listen to the band’s discography impulsively to reevaluate how the show transformed my feelings toward their music.

Now that I have sufficiently procrastinated mulled, I finally feel prepared to offer an insightful take on the show, albeit with the input of some friends who understand this band on a deeper level than I.

Last Sunday, a New Jersey-based quartet called Real Estate rolled into town for the first time since fall 2009 to play at Black Cat. (Sidenote: what’s with all of these impossible-to-Google band names? “Girls”? “Real Estate”? “The The”?! You guys are making my smart phone work waaay too hard). After releasing their self-titled debut in 2009, Real Estate built their reputation as ambassadors of chill; their sound is the epitome of dreamy and laidback, but with enough bells and whistles to keep things interesting. In fact, the first time I listened to Real Estate I instantly declared, “Oh, neat, a West Coast version of the Shins.”

Incorrect assumptions about geographic origin aside, a beach bum aesthetic pervades each and every song as it drifts down a musical lazy river, with lyrics that romanticize the mundanities of daily life in a small beach town. Yet the simplicity of their lyrics is completely calculated, and they serve as a neutral palette for the supremely crisp, multifaceted, and expertly edited instrumentals. When the band recorded their second album Days in 2011, they stuck to this formula and, quite simply, did it better. They keep the lyrics uncomplicated and let their beautiful instruments play the starring role.

That being said, Real Estate’s music never made me think, “I cannot WAIT to see these guys live.” I couldn’t predict how their sound would translate on stage. If performed improperly, “dreamy” music can easily border on “drowsy” in a live setting. However, if the band could amplify every shimmering, gorgeous layer of their tunes into a casually grandiose experience, then that show could be a treat.

Last Sunday, I happily experienced the latter. On stage at the Black Cat, Real Estate conveyed exactly what makes their music so uniquely special: they capitalize on the carefree simplicity in their lyrics to make their instrumentation soar, and the band’s live presence felt nonchalant but genuine. Bassist Alex Bleeker donned a Giants sweatshirt and clearly struggled to focus on the performance as the G-Men went into overtime, and lead vocalist Martin Courtney’s dance moves never strayed far from some turtleneck head-bobbing.

In a breezy 90 minutes, the band at least touched on all 10 tracks from their latest album. They set the bar high by opening with a rock-solid rendition of “Green Aisles,” a standard to which not every subsequent song could meet—though many came close. Also, I would have appreciated a bit more time dedicated to “All the Same,” the superb 8-minute number that closes out Days. The swells and spirals of that tune offer a glimpse of a future Real Estate, one that can leap out of their comfort zone, and I would have loved to see them really lay into the jam session parts of the song.

Ultimately, however, the award for “having more fun than anybody” definitely went to lead guitarist Matthew Mondanile, particularly when he fell off stage during the encore. That’s ok, though. Even before his puzzling tumble, Mondanile was the best performer of the bunch, taking the energy up a notch at times when, frankly, it needed to be taken up a notch. The group relies on him for that ounce of traditional charisma that they normally dodge, and that ounce is all they need to put forth a performance that could convert a skeptic into to a believer (myself included).

More iPhone photos for your enjoyment. Real Estate is also not so down with the flash from a DSLR, according to Black Cat.

Lead guitarist Matthew Mondanile: drunk or just clumsy?

Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney, gettin his turtle on. Real Estate Bassist Alex Bleeker reppin the New York Gians. #Dynamicduo

two bars three stars: scoutmob debuts local music podcasts

12 Jan

I’ve always been a big fan of Scoutmob, the locally-focused website that offers deals for local restaurants, shops, music venues, and other services with no cost up front. Ever since Scoutmob helped me get me two favorite DC cheap eats (Amsterdam Falafel and Julia’s Empanadas) for free.99 last summer, I’ve been hooked.

My enthusiasm for Scoutmob increased ten-fold yesterday when they debuted a local music podcast where two DC-area creatives/music enthusiasts highlighted their favorite tracks that showcase the unique flavor of DC music from all angles—from Tuscadero to Wale to Moombahton.

Hosts Marcus Dowling and Tina Seamonster provided a perfect balance of DC music knowledge. Tina mentioned she saw Fugazi on her wedding day. So awesome. #Girlcrush. But when she didn’t know much about Wale, Marcus stepped in and provided Wale 101, as well as discussed DC’s role as the birthplace of the musical nightlife craze that is Moombahton.

The show delved into diverse aspects of the DC music scene, both past and present—the Tuscadero song “Mount Pleasant” recounts a time in the 1990s when that lovely hilly neighborhood was actually “All liquor and lace/ Drunk guys in your face/ Broken 40s in the street/ Losing lottery tickets at your feet”  instead of “All plaid and no mace/ Non-profit guys in your face/ Broken craft beer bottles in the street/ This is gentrification, this isn’t South East” (lyrics updated for 2012 by moi. ::Takes a bow::). But the hosts balance the history listen with the fresh stuff, such as the Moombahton track.

I have only two requests for the next podcast: First, make it longer. Second, can you guys please teach me about go-go?

on deck: the potomac bombs at red palace, 1.13.12

11 Jan

As much as I love DC music, there was a time when I felt something was seriously missing from my DC music world: a favorite local bluegrass band.

I’d gone to shows to check the scene and heard some great Willie Nelson covers along the way, but none of these bands fit the bill. For one, they were all clean shaven. What? Where were all the bearded bards? Second, they all had drummers. Really? Did our creator not bestow feet upon bluegrass musicians for the sole purpose of stomping a beat?

Thankfully, this all changed one glorious weekend in May 2011. As I sat in DuPont Circle, pondering why I couldn’t fill this void, three guys showed up to busk. I saw a mandolin–I was intrigued. I saw a stand-up bass–I was more intrigued. I saw beards and no drum kit– I was sold. By the time this trip launched into a smooth rendition of “Jesus, Etc.” that would have made even the most depressed Jeff Tweedy smile, the Potomac Bombs had gained an enthusiastic new fan.

Since then, I’ve witnessed the Bombs bring the house down many, many times, whether the house is as big as Rock n Roll Hotel or as small as a corner in Eastern Market. I’ve seen them spit in the face of Hurricane Irene by drawing a soaked crowd who battled Category 3 rain, wind, and hail just to attend their show; I’ve seen them inspire an impromptu dance party on an otherwise mellow Thursday night at Acre 121; I’ve seen them climb on tables and chairs on an otherwise mellow Friday night at Big Bear Cafe.

This Friday, the Bombs are back for (possibly) their last big gig in DC at Red Palace. This crowd better be prepared for the sight they will behold: Frank Sturges, a wayward Carolina man destined for the mountains, will float his fingers across his mandolin strings faster than your eyes (or ears) can keep up; Ted Collins, an unlikely scholar who solves economic development problems by day, will be making the DC ladies swoon with juicy basslines and his silky smooth vocals that night; and guitarist Nick Deprey will join forces with Ted for sweeter harmonies than you ever imagined hearing in a Ryan Adams cover. This power trio will play sauced-up covers of bluegrass, American roots, and folk favorites, along with their original blend of Chicago blues and Southern alt-country.

Play the hits. Bring the rage. I know they will.

(Rough cuts from an in-progress EP below)

on deck: orchard lounge at u street music hall, 1.11.12

10 Jan

Many friends have heard me lament the life-long affliction I dub “fear of missing out” (FOMO). FOMO often goes undiagnosed for years; sufferers may be unfairly judged as party animals, when really the only reason they go out all the time is pure, unadulterated fear. Fear that all of your friends are having a blast somewhere,  sharing fantastic experiences that will forge a lifelong bond full of “remember when…” stories that YOU will not remember. All because you decided to stay in and do laundry.

As a lifelong victim of FOMO, I am pretty much the easiest person in the world to convince to go to a show. So, true to form, let’s kick off the weekend a day earlier than planned, shall we? Because Orchard Lounge is playing at U Street Music Hall tomorrow night, and even the slight chance to see the DC crowd twirling some LED hula hoops is worth the $5 ticket price.

This DJ trio has made waves on the electro-jam festy circuit for years, and they are Camp Bisco favorites. “Space disco” might be the best way to describe their sound, and it definitely has a downtempo, futuristic house feel. I’ve heard them described as “cocaine cool”–because if my life were a movie, Orchard Lounge would be on the soundtrack during the scenes when I am dating a European investment banker and partying on a boat that feels a little too slick and a little too 80s Miami Vice, ya know?

But Orchard Lounge also ascribes to the motto “From the Dancefloor, to Your Couch,” and their sound lives up to that sentiment; the trio weaves in enough laidback, mellow grooves to make it chill enough for daytime playlists.  

Listen to “Living Room Sessions Volume 2” below. Only 2/3 of the trio are spinning on this, but it’ll get you started.

two bars three stars: fatback; or, what if the best night of your life happened every month?

10 Jan

In the world of DC nightlife, I am a firm believer in the institution of the monthly dance party. I don’t know if we’re just a city of over-scheduled Type As who love recurring Outlook invites or what, but many of my favorite nights in the District have taken place at monthly parties that have a cult following and a longstanding tradition.

As for my favorite monthly fiesta, it’s really a toss-up between All Things Gold at U Street Music Hall (for those who love electro and hate their ability to hear); Che Sera at Napoleon (bass-heavy remixes of 1960s-70s surf music? Free flowers to put in my hair? Sign me up!); or the legendary Fatback at Bohemian Caverns, where the disco child in all of us is transported back to an era when Motown, soul, and straight-up funk kept the kids’ feet moving.

Fatback had intrigued me for ages, and I finally, finally got myself there in December 2011. Needless to say, every hope, dream, aspiration, and fantasy for the night came true (and then some).

There were disco balls. And glitter.  And seamlessly mixed Motown songs I used to (err…maybe still) sing with my mom while listening to oldies radio. There were Santa hats and red-and-white-striped onesies (possibly because DC Santarchy took place that day). Everyone in the crowd seemed equally entranced by the crew of DJs slinging old school dance favorites, and we were all myopically focused on the mission at hand: to dance, dance, like it’s the last, last, night of your life, life, Fatback DJs gon’ get you right…sorry, I digress.

Fatback was a utopian disco world where normal party problems don’t exist because everyone was just so happy to be there and be alive. Case in point: looking back, the bathroom line was atrociously long. But, you know what, I made some of my BFFs of the night grooving in that bathroom line—shout out to the girlfriend who belted some falsetto “Dancing in September” with me, you’re a peach (whoever you are)!

ANYWAY, I am obviously giddily excited to return to this land on January 21, and not just for any old Fatback– it’s Fatback’s 4th Anniversary Party. If you need any more convincing that this will be the pièce de résistance of January’s nightlife offerings, take a look (/listen) at this BYT post, where Fatback DJs graciously compiled their top 40 tracks from this year’s parties. I’ve posted my favorite from the list below: a soul cover of Free’s “All Right Now,” you don’t get any more quintessential Fatback than that.  See you on the dance floor, kids.

two bars three stars: the DC hip-hop history project

4 Jan

In my short time as a DC resident, I’ve become increasingly perplexed at the obvious lack of successful, influential rappers from the District. This is the Chocolate City, after all; why would a city so rich in Black culture fail to contribute to the vast canon of Golden Age hip-hop that defined New York and L.A. in the early 90s? Why didn’t a niche scene emerge akin to those in Detroit and Houston? Why did it take so long for a rapper as famous as Wale to rhyme about DC? My friends, these are the questions that keep me awake at night—and my half-baked hypotheses and research are best left to a different post for a different day.

These same questions are now being discussed through the recently launched DC Hip-Hop History Project. The project, sponsored by FWMJ’s Rappers I Know—a.k.a. the website credited for breaking new artists like Jay Electronica and Little Brother—involves radio host Jamie Benson interviewing notable local musicians to tell the story of the DC hip hop scene.

The project’s first podcast debuted today, in which DC artists yU and Kokayi join Benson to interview The Unspoken Heard, a prominent DC hip hop duo comprised of rappers Asheru and Blue Black. The group discusses how life in the DMV fostered their development as hip-hop artists, including an entertaining anecdote about Asheru’s experience writing the Boondocks theme song (~minute 42).

 The guys also recount the roadblocks for DC rappers to fully capitalize on the Golden Age; Kokayi states, “I can go back to a time when being an MC in DC was not a popular thing. If you rapped, the connotation was that you were trying to act like you were from New York.” (Here I was thinking the DC-NY inferiority complex started with the influx of hipsters in 2008…nah, apparently this conundrum has deep roots).

The interview is quintessentially DC in so many ways: not only do Asheru and Blue Black talk about finding their sound in the underground scene around U Street and their work with local music coalitions like Guerilla Arts, they also discuss their University of Virginia educations (wahoowa stand up) and their impressive professional endeavors (~minute 35). Yes, in this city, even our rappers have master’s degrees in IT. Welcome to DC.