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Thomas Sayers Ellis was born and raised in D.C. He graduated from Dunbar High and was immersed in go-go culture, playing timbales and rototoms for Petworth Band. With his kooky, unfettered brilliance and occasionally bizarre perspectives, TSE is both charismatic and controversial. His viewpoints are reflected in Heroes Are Gang Leaders, his avant-funk/free jazz spoken-word ensemble that takes its name from the Amiri Baraka short story. Tonight’s HAGL performance is titled This Funk Ain’t William Faulkner’s Fault and includes “Artificial Happiness Button,” “Letters From the Locked Away,” and “Internet Kill Switch.” Read more >>> Heroes Are Gang Leaders perform at 6 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW. Free. (202) 467-4600. kennedy-center.org. (Alona Wartofsky)
Chef Jerome Grant of Sweet Home Cafe inside the African American Museum is cooking up a tasting menu inside The Big Chief in Ivy City on Sunday. The event, hosted by Dine Diaspora is modeled off a West African-style “Chop Bar,” but Grant will cook food inspired by his Caribbean, American, and Filipino heritage. Tickets are $45 and the event runs from 1 to 4 p.m. The Big Chief, 2002 Fenwick St. NE. (202) 465-4241. bigchiefdc.com. (Laura Hayes)
OH AND ALSO
Friday: Author Jason Zinoman, comedy columnist for the New York Times, discusses his latest book, a biography of David Letterman called Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night, at Politics & Prose. 7 p.m. at 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free.
Friday: Delicate pop-folk band Bellows performs at Songbyrd with opening acts Fraternal Twin and Stolen Jars. 8 p.m. at 2477 18th St. NW. $10–$12.
Friday: If you’re aching for some ’80s nostalgia or just continue to crush on Kevin Bacon, he plays at The Birchmere as part of The Bacon Brothers.7:30 p.m. at 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $45.
Saturday: As Nite Jewel, Los Angeles singer-producer Ramona Gonzalez is the star at the center of her own left field pop galaxy. Since emerging from the lo-fi haze of 2008’s Good Evening, Gonzalez has polished Nite Jewel until the project glows, her synth-driven, R&B-infused jams becoming brighter and brighter as the years have passed. This year’s Real High, her fourth album, might be her brightest to date, balancing late-night come-ons, low-key disco-pop, a gauzy vision of Sade, and some of her most straight-forward R&B yet. Read more >>> Nite Jewel performs with Geneva Jacuzzi and Harriet Brown at 8 p.m. at Rock & Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE. $15–$18. (202) 388-7625. rockandrollhotel.com. (Chris Kelly)
Saturday: The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, takes the stage at Wolf Trap to play her greatest hits. 8 p.m. at 1551 Trap Road, Vienna. $40–$135.
Saturday: Join go-go favorites EU in celebrating Sugar Bear‘s birthday with a raucous celebration at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club. 8 p.m. at 7719 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda. $25.
Sunday: Explosive Alabama rockers Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires‘ latest album, Youth Detention, finds Bains finally reckoning with what made the band’s previous records feel out-of-date. “I don’t want to be a whitewash, I don’t want to be an absence, I don’t want to be the great silence,” he sings on “Whitewash.” These songs are fast and loud. Bains doesn’t let his reflections make him timid; he shouts his revelations at full volume, going 100 miles an hour. Read more >>> Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires perform with The Sniffs and Priors at 9 p.m. at DC9, 1940 9th St. NW. $10. (202) 483-5000. dcnine.com. (Justin Weber)
Sunday: Head to Merriweather Post Pavilion for an indie rock showcase featuring performances by Belle & Sebastian, Ex Hex, Spoon, and Andrew Bird. 6 p.m. at 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. $45–$55.
Sunday: Close out the weekend at the Black Cat Backstage, where you can hear sets from funk bands Harry J & The Bling, Kaelan Brown & The Blue Chips, and Concept Collective. 7:30 p.m. at 1811 14th St. NW. $10.
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