ToDo ToDay: 4/20 Parties, All Your Favorite D.C. Indie Rockers, Zarjaz
Anyone who considers electronic dance music an inaccessible, overintellectual art form doesn’t listen to Beats in Space, the weekly radio show hosted for the last 13 years by DJ Tim Sweeney. His Tuesday-night program on WNYU 89.1 FM is probably one of the best electronic-music shows in North America. But it’s a friendly one, too, largely because Sweeney is adorably awkward. During the few minutes he spends speaking with his guest DJs on each program, the 31-year-old giggles, stumbles over foreign words, and makes milquetoast small talk—almost like a cross between a late-night public-access TV show host and a bumbling Farley on Saturday Night Live’s “The Chris Farley Show.” But few hold it against him. In fact, with the exception of Victor from Washington Heights—a troll who calls in regularly to trash everything on the show—the universe seems to embrace Tim Sweeney. Beats in Space has become the low-key alternative to more commercial prorams like BBC Radio One’s Essential Mix and a more diverse cousin of Resident Advisor and XLR8R’s noted podcasts. And while he’s booked playing parties and running a promising record label—pick up that Secret Circuit 12-inch!—Sweeney rarely misses a show. Every week, he’s back in the basement, chit-chatting with James Murphy, DJ Hell, Morgan Geist, Superpitcher, the deranged DJ Harvey, and dozens of other touring DJs, giggling and mixing away, while the world happily tunes in to listen. Tim Sweeney DJs Friday at 10 p.m. with Beautiful Swimmers and Tiger + Woods at U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW. Free before 11 p.m. for 21-plus; $10 after. (202) 588-1880. (Ally Schweitzer)
First things first! 4/20 parties: iCannabis Radio and Art Under Pressure are hosting an "Overgrow the Government" party featuring Kelow, Uptown X.O., Gordo Brega, and a ton more. At 8 p.m. at Ras Hall, 4809 Georgia Ave. NW. $10 (women free before 9 p.m.) "420 at the Fillmore" features local hip-hop-inflected bands Violet Says 5 and Black Alley, plus others. At 8 p.m. at the Fillmore, 8656 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $20. (301) 960-9999. Also, here's another 4/20 party at Sutra Lounge for which I vouch somewhat less enthusiastically.
Basically all of Arts Desk's favorite local indie-rock bands: The Caribbean, Deleted Scenes, Cigarette at 10 p.m. at Comet Ping Pong, 5037 Connecticut Ave. $10. (202) 364-0404.
Homegrown alt-country dudes These United States open for Trampled by Turtles at 9:30 Club. Listen to TUS' recent single "Dead and Gone." At 8 p.m. at 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $22. (202) 265-0930.
Charlottesville, Va./D.C./nomadic eerie indie-folk duo Birdlips—we like them!—have a free show at 6 p.m. at Kennedy Center's Millenium Stage, 2700 F St. NW. (202) 467-4600.
Books! Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story, and Adam Ross (Mr. Peanut) team up to discuss, you know, lit stuff. At 7:30 p.m. at Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E. Capitol St. SE. $15. (202) 544-7077.
Pop-ups! The Water St. Project opens up in Georgetown.
Legendary local hardcore pioneers Bad Brains are having a busy spring—shows featuring the original lineup, a documentary making the festival rounds. Friday's show is sold out, but tonight's, with Wu-Tang's GZA, hasn't filled up yet. At 8 p.m. at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. $29-$32. (202) 803-2899.
Gloom! So much local gloom! Noisegazers Screen Vinyl Image, hardcore thrashers LTW, art abusers Washerwoman, goth-poppers Lenorable, and a new band called Irony Galaxy perform at 7:30 p.m. at St. Stephen's, 1525 Newton St. NW. $5. The show is a benefit for the Washington Animal Rescue League.
Excellently curated local blog All Our Noise hosts Sun Wolf, post-rockers Buildings, and long-form noiseniks The Plums at 9 p.m. at Montserrat House, 2016 9th St. NW. $12.
And three solid local acts are providing the music entertainment at the Pink Line Project's Cherry Blast party: Miyazaki, Heavy Breathing, and Protect-U. Lots of visual art to boot. At 8 p.m. at Lightbox, 2235 Shannon Place SE. $10.
London’s Tronics might be the ultimate crate-digger band of the post-punk era. Led by the mysterious Ziro Baby, the band made a handful of recordings between 1979 and 1984, including the LP Love Backed by Forceand the immortal “Shark Fucks” single, both of which New York label What’s Your Rupture? reissued this year. In their day, Tronics nearly dodged immortality by rejecting a reissue offer from the legendary Creation Records, then disbanding. Ziro Baby became Zarjaz (a reference to the British sci-fi zine 2000 A.D., presumably), made one single for Creation, and began releasing music as Freakapuss. It was a solid recipe for permanent obscurity, but over the years, Tronics’ outsider records became collector’s items and bootleg fodder, with good reason: The music is hissy, stripped down, and adventurous, prefiguring DIY acts like Beat Happening and drawing on everything from Gandalf the Grey’s bizarro psych-folk to The Kinks’ Americana era to Zarjaz’s immediate art-punk milieu. At times, Tronics even sound like the missing link between arch romanticists Jonathan Richman and Stephin Merritt. “You’re so cold, you’re so hard,” Zarjaz sang in 1981. “So much like the Marquis de Sade.” Zarjaz performs with Foul Swoops at 8 p.m. at CD Cellar, 2607 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Free. (703) 248-0635. (Jonathan L. Fischer)
If Washington gets little credit for having a literary life, neighbors like Bethesda get even shorter shrift: They’re just as heavy on policy dorks as we are, but absent even a hint of urban cool. Perhaps that’s selling the tony suburb short. The 13th annual Bethesda Literary Festival features an array of authors known for flights of the imagination: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’s Judith Viorst, Melonhead’s Katy Kelly, and the Goosebumps series’ R.L. Stine. Unfortunately, the grown-up books are a bit wonkier: Highlights include Marvin and Deborah Kalb discussing their Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama, Thomas Friedman discussing his That Used to be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World That it Invented and How We Can Come Back, and Walter Isaacson holding forth on his Steve Jobs biography. The Bethesda Literary Festival takes place from April 20 to April 22 at various venues in Bethesda. All events are free. See a complete schedule at bethesda.org. (Michael Schaffer)