Arts Desk

Don’t Be Bored: WaPo Wraps Up the Year

Back in the days when the print edition was the only edition, The Listin the Washington Post Style section was required reading. Where else could you get such a mixture of knowing snark and up-to-date cultural memes? Wrapping your hungover brain around the entries was a regional ritual. Now, of course, knowing snark and cultural memes are pretty much the only thing on the Internet, besides porn and discount shopping. And in the age of Twitter, jokes about the February zeitgeist don’t go over so well by the following Jan. 1; did you realize all that Charlie Sheen nonsense happened just this year, as opposed to, say, two years ago? So how to handle “The List” in these modern times? Make it an event! Dan Zak and Monica Hesse, the Posties responsible for the 2012 edition, will preview the New Year’s Day paper this afternoon at the Newseum. Although, actually, they’ve been previewing it all week—the 2012 List hit Tumblr on Tuesday. For the 2013 version, just bookmark BuzzFeed. The talk begins at 2:30 p.m. at the Newseum's Knight TV Studio. $21.95 museum admission includes access.  (Mike Madden)

NEW YEAR'S EVE

Given the personnel involved, Volta Bureau hasn’t had trouble getting local press since announcing its existence last spring. But one thing has been noticeably absent from most of the media coverage: a description of what these dudes sound like that’s a bit more precise than “supergroup.” (The trio includes popular local DJs and producers Will Eastman, Micah Vellian, and Outputmessage.) That slipperiness is surely to their credit, but let me take a stab anyway. Volta Bureau makes house music gone slightly hypnagogic. The songs’ skeletons are minutely academic, maybe even conservative, but they all eventually take a nostalgic, fuzzed-out trip to no era in particular. But this isn’t Ariel Pink for house lovers, because Volta Bureau’s dance anthems always stay grounded. That’s mostly thanks to Outputmessage’s vocals, a synthpop deadpan, plus, in some cases, live instrumentation that brings a little danger to the live set. Super. Volta Bureau DJs a New Year’s Eve party at 9 p.m. with Lxsx Frxnk at 9:30 Club Backbar, 815 V St. NW. $10. (Jonathan L. Fischer)

For more options, check out our New Year's Eve listings.

NEW YEAR'S DAY

Called the “Queen of Ethiopian Music,” Aster Aweke has performed to stadium-size crowds in her country, but for a period in the 1980s, she lived here, in exile, and played local restaurants several times a week. Between 1989 and 1991, she had a major-label deal with Columbia Records, who promoted her records to a “world music” audience, then dropped her from the roster. But her subsequent releases on Ethiopian and Ethiopian-American labels cemented her fanbase, and she went on to play a triumphant homecoming concert in Addis Ababa in 1997. Now in her 50s and living in Ethiopia, the vocalist has released her 23rd album (2010’s Checheho) and a slate of recent singles. Her relevance remains intact, particularly on her understated version of the ballad “Tizita,” and her newest cut, the flashier “Ye-inëta.” Over upbeat keyboards, Aweke joyously flaunts her vocal range and melds muezzin-like Ethiopian scales with African-American rhythm and blues. Tonight, anticipate a loyal crowd that’s stuck around since her days of wowing audiences at D.C. restaurants. Aweke performs with Dawit Melese Sunday at 11:45 p.m. at DC Star. $35 in advance, $40 at door. (Steve Kiviat)

THE DAY AFTER NEW YEAR'S DAY

The Vienna New Year’s concert is a lavish, legendary event. Every year, classical fans gather in the Austrian capital and tune in from around the world to hear one of Europe’s finest orchestras ring in the new year with a mix of waltzes, polkas, and czárdás. But around here, the closest thing we get to a Viennese New Year is off the Orange Line, with a plate of waffles at Amphora. That’s where “Salute to Vienna” comes in. The traveling show puts on aneujahrskonzert in 16 cities across North America, using local musicians backed by Austrian dancers, singers, and conductors. D.C.’s version of the Vienna Philharmonic will be led by Alexander Steinitz, featuring soprano Rebecca Nelsen and tenor Thomas Sigwald. The Vienna Imperial Ballet, whose misleading name suggests a legacy dating back to the Habsburgs—it was actually founded in 2003—will provide the visual flair, along with champion ballroom dancers. Expect a Strauss-heavy program including “The Blue Danube,” “Radetzky March,” and more pieces that made that other Vienna famous. Tuesday at 3 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore. $49-$95. (Mike Paarlberg)

Photo of Dan Zak by Jonathan Pushnik.

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