Tag Archives: dc9

The end of an era: the last KIDS party

This Saturday marks the end of an era in DC nightlife as the monthly KIDS party dominates DC9 for the last time. KIDS, named for and inspired by the controversial Larry Clark film, has given DC scenesters a haven to enjoy 90s hip hop jams without irony and with plenty of Olde English malt liquor and free condoms.

The first KIDS flier – everyone looks so young!

The impetus for KIDS was a shared love of hip-hop, skateboarding, and city culture – the same terrain as the film. Started during the height of the hipster, electro obsession, it gave four budding DJs the chance to spin the music they truly love. After two plus years, the group of DJs – Lil’ Elle, Steve Starks, Nacey and Jackie O – chose to end it, even though the party is still successful. They admit it was a tough decision. “DC9’s been a home to us and the staff is like family… We can’t wait to come back and throw a party at DC9, it just might be a little while.” The move will give everyone time to focus on other things, and a chance to, as Elle says, “put this chapter to rest for now.”

The KIDS crowd was a unique one, combining friends of the DJs, a dedicated group of devotees, and random party-goers down for anything. But in a transient city like DC, the scene is constantly in flux. Lil’ Elle laments that the party “lost the homie mentality.” That mentality was due in large part to the vibe: KIDS was a grown-up version of a high school house party, paradoxically both laid back and irreverently out-of-control. The spot of many memorable nights, one in particular stands tall.

In February 2010, during the second blizzard of the season, KIDS went on as planned. “I’ll never forget walking with the crew up the middle of Florida Ave, which had no cars on it, thinking nobody was coming out to KIDS,” Nacey remembers. “We considered canceling it. Two hours after rolling up, the place was bubbling. By 3am there was a massive snowball fight outside.” Before devolving into a snowball fight, premiere DJ Dave Nada jumped on the tables and treated the sweat pants-clad crowd to a hip-hop, turntablist clinic – a rarity from the club/house DJ. “Tittsworth ended up flipping a couch,” laughs Lil’ Elle.

With a fixed set of songs that fit the 90s rubric, there were bound to be songs that felt played out; Elle names R&B jams “Return of the Mack” and “This Is How We Do It” as songs that got old but continue to be crowd pleasers. Thankfully, favorites outnumber duds: Biggie’s “Going Back to Cali” for Elle, Smif-n-Wessun’s “I Love You” for Nacey (“That piano loop gets people every time.”)

Steve Starks took a different route: “[It’s] kind of funny, cause I started playing crunk sets, which were my favorite moments at KIDS, which I hadn’t done at the very beginning. Those tunes weren’t really throwbacks in the 90’s hip hop sense, mostly early/mid 00’s. Anyways, that music is my shit! Lil Jon, “Whatcha Gon Do.” The party always boiled over with that one.”

What’s next for the KIDS crew? Lil’ Elle, who recently relocated to San Francisco, is getting deeper into the Bay Area music scene, DJing, promoting, and connecting visiting DJs with locals. Along with remixing, Nacey is writing and producing songs with Misun, “an amazing vocalist in DC who hasn’t really been discovered yet. She’s got a lot of soul and has a ton of ideas.” Steve Starks has “a rack of new original tracks coming out, and some remixes.” Jackie O continues to DJ in DC, with residencies at Velvet Lounge and the 9:30 Back Bar and appearances across town.

For DJs that want to establish an event or party with the staying power of something like KIDS, the key is passion. “It’s really important that your heart is in it; we really wanted to spin this music,” says Ellen; Starks and Nacey feel the same way, but note that “the free malt liquor didn’t hurt either.”

Join Nacey, Jackie O, and Steve Starks at DC9 for the final KIDS this Saturday, July 2. Free entry, condoms, and malt liquor before 10PM and only $5 after. Hip-hop all night.

The xx @ DC9, 11/15/09

Acts that play DC9 usually unload their gear from the backs of their own vans and cars, so the sight of a truly rock-and-roll tour bus outside the club on Sunday meant only one thing: “It” band of the moment The XX had rolled into town on a bus befitting their bloghaus buzz.

Since forming in 2005, the XX has gone from West London high-schoolers to underground sensation on both sides of the pond. And while the majority of the 2009 British invasion has tended towards danceable electropop (Little Boots, La Roux, et al), the XX refocus their pop and R&B influences inward, crafting soulful indie rock that is dark and sexual.

The riptide of hype has already swallowed one member, as guitarist/keyboardist Baria Qureshi recently quit the band after an exhausting slate of CMJ showcases. The XX soldier on a three-piece, as her departure has caused the band to improvise and adapt arrangements, without much margin of error.

Opening the night was Jon Hopkins, an electronic music producer whose songs are glitchy and atmospheric, sounding at times like outtakes from a Clint Mansell score, and at others, instrumentals begging for a female vocalist, a la Zero 7 and Frou Frou. The pulsating drums and sweeping synths rang the gamut from dubstep to drum-n-bass, firmly on the “electronic” side of an electronic/dance music Venn diagram. Unfortunately, watching Hopkins manipulate his gear is not particularly captivating. The crests never broke and he seemed to out stay his welcome. However, it was the perfect music for an opener, leaving enough ambience and mystique in the air for the main attraction.

To rousing applause, the XX took the stage. The band’s youth (they’re all 20!) was on display throughout the night, but not in an unpleasant way. The set list stayed relatively close to the record, with a few covers mixed in: their masterful reworkings of the funky club track “Do you mind?” and the Womack & Womack hit “Teardrops,” a song recorded before the band members were born. Oliver Sim (bass and vocals) seemed genuinely excited by the band’s first trip to Washington; his reference of Ben’s Chili Bowl was earnest and unrehearsed. And while they missed their marks or played the wrong notes a few times, it reminded the audience what they are witnessing: gifted songwriters whose talents belie their age and experience.

In front of a display emblazoned with their stark logo, the goth-attired trio worked through twelve of the fifteen songs they have committed to record (their cover of Florence and the Machines “You’ve Got the Love” was sorely missed). The interplay and counterpoint of Sim’s smoky vocals with the breathy ones of guitarist Romy Madley Croft are just as sorrowful and emotive as on record. Jamie Smith, manning a drum machine, samplers, and the occasional live percussion seems to have picked up the slack after Qureshi’s exit, especially when dropping the otherworldly bass sounds of songs like “Fantasy.”

If not immediately engaged, the sold-out crowd was won over by the time Croft plucked the opening riff of the surprisingly danceable single “Crystalised,” and remained enraptured until the call-and-response crescendo that ended the set on “Stars,” a song that finds the band at its most Chris Isaac-like sound. Here’s hoping the band can survive the further strain that is all but assured as more people hear the record. This is the rare next-big-thing that doesn’t rely on gimmicks, parlaying a high Pitchfork score into no more than hipster namedroppings. If they can survive this rough patch intact, I’ll be front and center when they play the 9:30 Club in April, a venue where their tour bus, buzz, and crowd will all be in sync with their talent.