Acclimate yourself with D.C.’s best music venues, and procrastinate on the semester’s first assignments, with a marathon of seven shows at seven different locations. From Swedish post-punk to boy-band R&B, explore the city with a week of live music.
Saturday, Sept. 1 — Secret Cities @ Comet Ping Pong
Venture several blocks from Tenleytown to Connecticut Avenue and you will find Comet Ping Pong, D.C.’s most idiosyncratic pizza joint. Top chef Guy Fieri spotlighted the kitchen’s gourmet pies on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and the restaurant’s back room sports several ping pong tables for diners to channel their inner table-tennis Olympian. Comet doubles as a music venue, hosting intimate shows at student-friendly prices several nights a week. A highlight of their fall schedule is North Dakota natives Secret Cities, who bring their ‘60s-flavored indie rock to town on Sept. 1, supported by D.C. locals the Mean Season.
Sunday, Sept. 2 — Julia Holter/Hundred Waters @ Black Cat
The Black Cat is everything a mid-sized venue should be: conveniently located on 14th Street in the vibrant U Street Corridor and sports a concert calendar full of DJ nights and a mix of established and up-and-coming names. On Sept. 2, the postcard-sized Black Cat Backstage hosts an avant-folk doubleheader with quintet Hundred Waters and ethereal songstress Julia Holter. This show pairs two rapidly rising acts (Holter’s March release “Ekstasis” has received almost unanimous critical acclaim and Hundred Waters recently signed to Skrillex’s OWSLA label) on a stage too small for their prodigious talents in one of this fall’s most quality gigs.
Sept. 2 — The Mynabirds/Port St Willow @ R&R
Across town on H Street at the Rock & Roll Hotel is another indie pop pairing with a headlining female vocalist. However, while Julia Holter’s music is sparse and serene, the Mynabirds’ sound is all rollicking classic rock nostalgia, bolstered by lead singer Laura Bernhenn’s killer pipes and Dusty Springfield vibes. Opening is Port St. Willow, the project of artist Nick Principe, whose recent self-released album “Holiday” could pass as a sparser and murkier Antlers record. Let the Rock & Roll Hotel serve as your introduction to D.C.’s Atlas District, which hosts a string of restaurants and bars perfect for escaping the stuffiness of Northwest D.C.
Wednesday, Sept. 5 — Holograms @ Red Palace
The Red Palace sits a block down from the Rock & Roll Hotel on H Street, and its smaller stage and quality acoustics serve as a foil to the Hotel’s dark and blisteringly loud atmosphere. Perhaps the Hotel would be a better fit for Swedish punks Holograms, who pair New Wave synths and aggressive guitars with bratty, heavily accented vocals. But there’s no doubt that this band will neatly manhandle the intimate Red Palace stage just as thoroughly as any other one in town. Don’t miss one of the most promising punk shows on deck for this fall.
Sept. 5 — Hacienda @ DC9
DC9 hosts a scruffy stage (and a gorgeous roof-top deck upstairs) on 9th and U for shows utterly lacking in pretense. San Antonio quartet Hacienda bring their retro-flavored rock to D.C. on Sept. 5. The band has strong ties with the Black Keys, and not just as soundalikes; the band played with the Keys’ lead singer Dan Auerbach on his solo tour, and the Akron rocker helped produce Hacienda’s debut record “Shakedown,” released this past June. Auerbach’s sleek production gives Hacienda’s record an artificial-sounding sheen, which gets stripped away in their gritty live show.
Thursday, Sept. 6 — Boyz 2 Men @ Howard Theater
You know who Boyz 2 Men are. Or at least you think you know: ‘90s R&B superstars, responsible for “I’ll Make Love to You” and “End of the Road,” probably responsible for your conception. Enticed yet? If you have any interest whatsoever in indulging in some legendary modern soul, their reunion set on Sept. 6 at the new Howard Theater would be your chance. Except you’re not allowed to go to a Boyz 2 Men show alone, obviously. That fine lady in your FSE group you’ve been eyeing? Your dream man from your film screening last semester who was always blasting D’Angelo from his headphones? You know what to do.
Friday, Sept. 7 — Sondre Lerche @ 930
So maybe trying to woo a semi-stranger into your arms by taking them to the least subtle show possible isn’t your style. You might have better luck with Sondre Lerche and his pleasant and completely inoffensive eclectic folk. The Norwegian singer-songwriter’s seemingly perpetual tour stops back in D.C. on Sept. 7 for a headlining set at the 9:30 club, D.C.’s premier stop for larger shows that consistently tops lists for the nation’s best venue. Lerche isn’t the world’s most dynamic performer, but his well-measured, sonically diverse music is made for a low-key evening out.