Arts Desk

ToDo ToDay: The 51st Shade of Grey

My friend Sarah has a theory about the popularity of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, which tells the sordid tale of a BDSM relationship between powerful, attractive billionaire Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, his young, virginal ladycharge. (The story started out as Twilight fan fiction, unsurprisingly.) An entire segment of readers who were let down by the dearth of sparkly vampire sex in theTwilight books can now read about similar characters with a similar dynamic getting down to business in graphic, sub-dom detail. But Sarah, a sex blogger who recently got a Kindle, thinks the privacy permitted by e-readers means more erotica for everyone—especially moms. No longer must they lock themselves in the bathroom to enjoy poorly rendered prose about boning! Thanks to your Kindle, you can read as much kinky fiction as your heart desires, and as far as the guy next to you on the train knows, you’re getting your War and Peace on. But keep this in mind: If you show up to the Bethesda Barnes & Noble to get the Fifty Shades scribe to sign your book or limited-edition collectible card, well, your secret’s out. E.L. James signs books at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 4801 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda. Free. (301) 986-1761. (Brooke Hatfield)

Friday

Japanese pysch warriors Acid Mother's Temple lead a lineup that's sure to be your loudest, trippiest option of the evening. They perform at 8:30 p.m. with Phantom Family Halo, Buildings, and The Clang Quartet at Red Palace, 1212 H St. NE. $12. (202) 399-3201.

Lower Dens, the Baltimore indie-rock group led by Jana Hunter, sounds remarkably more Motorik on its sophomore album Nootropics, although it hasn't gone straight-up Krautrock. Read Baltimore City Paper's recent feature on the band and its struggles with being indie-rock famous. With Violens at 8 p.m. at Rock & Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE. $10. (202) 388-ROCK.

Saturday

New York imprint Mexican Summer has branded the bejesus out of that sun-kissed, art-students-on-spring-break vibe—see Best Coast and Real Estate—but could industrial darkwave be its next frontier? Let’s hope so, especially if Light Asylum leads the charge. The duo (Shannon Funchess and Bruno Coviello) now has two punishing, mostly excellent releases on Mexican Summer, despite—or because of?—the blogosphere’s general consensus that Light Asylum is kind of scary. Sure, indie bloggers are wusses, but that impression is not totally off-base—few contemporary synthwave acts are as full-throttle as this one. “Skull Fuct,” from the EP In Tension, is especially spine-crushing: Its “Blue Monday” machine-gun drums, paired with Funchess’ guttural bellow, dumps bubbling tar on Mexican Summer’s bucolic back catalog. The band’s new album is crazy danceable—with a darkness pinched from the nine circles of hell. But while Light Asylum’s primary expressions are angst and isolation, Funchess’ power springs from her total lack of inhibition: Watch the video for “Dark Allies,” and see the singer, in her intoxicating way, artfully losing her shit in a dungeon of lasers. Light Asylum performs with Daughn Gibson at 7 p.m. at U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW. $12. ustreetmusichall.com. (202) 588-1880. (Ally Schweitzer)

And beginning at 10 p.m. at the same venue, local disco-house trio Volta Bureau is doing a six-hour DJ set, which they're recording for Sirius XM's channel 51.

Colby Caldwell had two excellent shows in the District this spring, and to mark the closing of the one at Conner Contemporary Civilian, the artist is speaking alongside poet Bernard Welt. At 6 p.m. at Civilian Art Projects, 1019 7th St. NW. Free.

Tom Finn is now a DJ to New York City's toniest socialites, but he once played in one of the '60s' best baroque pop bands—emphasis on the pop. The Left Banke still linger on oldies stations thanks to "Walk Away Renee"; they're known to indie-pop fans because Jens Lekman sampled "Something on My Mind." Tonight the Left Banke performs at 8 p.m. at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center in Rockville. A deal at $25? (240) 567-5301.

Reliable locals The Cornel West Theory—they of hyperlocal political rap-rock—and young psych-popppers ACME share a bill at 9 p.m. at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. (202) 667-7960.

Sunday

“Lunchtime Invasion” sounds like a wacky arm of the Occupy D.C. movement. (It’s a burrito bust-up! Bagel bedlam! Panini pandemonium!) But really, it’s just the name of the midday street performances planned as part of “Look Both Ways: Street Arts Across America,” the Kennedy Center’s week-long celebration of street performance. D.C. isn’t much of a street-performance town—we like our thoroughfares orderly, beige, and unmarred by quirkiness—but the comic possibilities of buttoned-down Hill staffers meeting face-to-face with a posse of yo-yo-slingers are too rich to pass up. Today at 11:30 a.m., knick-knack browsers at Eastern Market will be “invaded” by Happenstance Theater, Nana Projects, a multitalented unicycler called Bert the Nerd, and the multioral Mouth Monster (shown). Hang around Nationals Park this afternoon, and you might encounter Mucca Pazza, an enormous “circus-punk marching band” that, though based in Chicago, feels like the kind of kooky ensemble only Portland, Ore., could produce. Throughout the week, Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Farragut Square, and the Old Post Office Pavilion will be visited by aerialists, acrobats, Natalia Paruz (aka “The Saw Lady”), juggler Paolo Garbanzo, and others; the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage will also host affiliated shows all week. On Saturday, the fest culminates with a big blowout at Yards Park. Move that spectacle to McPherson Square, and you’ve got a real party. “Look Both Ways” begins at 11:30 a.m. at Eastern Market and Nationals Park/The Half Street Fairgrounds. See a complete schedule at kennedy-center.org. All events are free. (Ally Schweitzer)

Film

Tricia Olszewski isn't quite sold on Marvel's The Avengers, which she says is a passable summer tentpole but not worth the hefty emotional investment the franchise has asked of its fans:

We’ve invested a lot to get to this point. The years-in-the-making buildup—not to mention the millions the film has already made overseas—means The Avengers is much more than a mere popcorn movie. It’s the apotheosis of years of comic-dweeb object worship.

So, be it Stan Lee or writer/director/Geek-in-Chief Joss Whedon, thank your deity for Iron Man. Tony Stark and his metalheaded alter-ego provide the measure of self-deprecating bite The Avengers needs. Otherwise, you can practically feel the Comic-Con drool holding this hype monstrosity together.

Theater

Our critics identified a number of solid options in this week's City Paper. Chris Klimek was impressed by the formal canninenss of Studio 2ndStage's The Big Meal—which condenses several lifetimes into a 90-minute play set in a Midwestern restaurant. And despite some of its missteps, Klimek enjoyed Faction of Fools' Commedia Dell'Arte interpretation of Hamlet. And Rebecca J. Ritzel would have you see Theater J's The Whipping Man, a flawed but worthwhile work of historical fiction set in the aftermath of the Civil War and centered on a Jewish merchant and his former (also Jewish) slaves.

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