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It’s been a great year for Gainsbourgiana. Serge Gainsbourg—that notoriously lecherous French singer/songwriter and prodigious violator of social mores—died in 1991, but 20 years later he’s re-entered the cultural conversation. The cartoonist Joann Sfar made a delirious, formally adventurous biopic, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, which diagnoses its subject with society-induced self-loathing. Gainsbourg’s son Lulu, a composer, has recast the singer’s most famous tunes for a tribute album featuring celeb singers like Johnny Depp, Marianne Faithful, Scarlett Johansson, and Iggy Pop. (Meanwhile, daughter Charlotte released her fourth solo album, but it has nothing to do with dad.) And now Jane Birkin, Gainsbourg’s longtime romantic partner and muse, is performing his songs along with Japanese musicians she met in the aftermath of the March earthquake. With her brittle and girlish vocals, Birkin was always a perfect if discomfiting foil to Gainsbourg’s dirty-old-man persona. You could say that Gainsbourg helped mainstream that particular strain of libertinism in the 1960s. Sfar traced Gainsbourg’s connection to contemporary French public life in a recent interview with Heeb: “He’s very loved in France, but then again, I come from a place where rudeness and sexual candor are kinda cool. You can see it with [Dominique] Strauss-Kahn.” 6 p.m. at 9:30 Club. $35. (Jonathan L. Fischer)
Be assured there is no shortage of shows this weekend. But that’s partly because we’re heading right into the churning belly of Christmania, that unmagical time of year when performers trade in their cred for cheesy holiday covers, trite sentimentality, and floppy Santa hats. But! It’s not all corny. Tonight, the seasoned, ever-eclectic DJ Francois K. headlines U Hall yet again, with openers The Miracles Club and Beautiful Swimmers (10 p.m., free before 11 p.m.); and recovered indie rocker/smooth-pop musician Black Hills plays Red Palace with Big/Bright (9 p.m., $8). All weekend, Artisphere hosts a series of bhangra dance parties with special performances by Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company. But really, there is so much to choose from. Check out our music events calendar for proof.
TALKS ABOUT MUSIC
Does anyone seriously enjoy the two-and-a-half-hour monstrosity of Christmas cheer that is Handel’s Messiah? Apparently so, because choruses keep performing it, and people who don’t know what else to do with their relatives keep buying tickets year after year. How many generations of children have been held hostage by its interminable, repetitive themes, archaic King James Bible lyrics, and caterwauling supplications? Not enough, it seems. In “Searching for the Real Messiah,” musicologist Yvonne Caruthers gives a historical overview of the piece and all its pernicious manifestations. The NSO cellist draws on her career as both a performer and lecturer to explain how, despite the fact that it was first performed in the spring, Handel’s oratorio came to be as much an inescapable holiday staple as fruity Jell-O from a mold. And in case you’re still on the fence, here’s the clincher: There will be no actual performance of Messiah. 2 p.m. Saturday at the Kennedy Center’s Israeli Lounge. $15. (Mike Paarlberg)
I do not like running, and the idea of watching other people run generally seems preposterous to me. But I will watch the seventh annual Jingle All The Way 8K, because it’s the first race my wife has ever entered. Here’s what I know: She will run roughly five miles on a “flat and fast” course through downtown Washington, surrounded by people in elf hats, Santa costumes, and various other getups—most holiday-themed, some not. Contestants are given small jingle bells to tie to their shoes. It’s dorky. So, the annual Jingle All The Way race is kind of like the Tweed Ride, except 1) it’s an actual competition, 2) people run instead of bicycle, 3) many participants are real athletes, and 4) there are (presumably) far fewer jerks in tweed. I asked my wife if she will wear the bells. She said she will. The race begins at 9 a.m. at Freedom Plaza. Free to view. Registration is $35-$40. (Joe Warminsky)