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Brooklyn’s White Magic cannot heal the sick. Core members Mira Billotte (formerly of D.C.’s Quixotic) and Doug Shaw cannot predict the future, make you a grown-up, or bring your favorite mannequin to life. In other words: White Magic can’t really do any of the things one would traditionally expect from innocent witchcraft. But White Magic is plenty capable of sorcery in the sonic realm. On the band’s full-length debut, Dat Rosa Mel Apibus, Billotte’s voice wafted through the songs like smoke from a burning braid of sweetgrass, and the band carried a spooky sensibility that was alluringly more Aleister Crowley than abracadabra. Yet, for all of the album’s intoxicating charms, sometimes it just seemed too stoned, with a bongload of nonjudicious tamboura-strumming clogging up the stereo field. Luckily, the recently released Dark Stars EP finds White Magic opening up the windows and clearing out a little bit of the smoke. Songs such as “Very Late” see the band traveling toward swampier and bluesier climes while the creaky and slanted “Poor Harold” finds Billotte distilling older ideas into their most enchanting essence. Though White Magic may not be able to help you talk to your dead relatives, they are—at the very least—a bewitching listen. White Magic performs at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at DC9, 1940 9th St. NW. $10. (202) 483-5000. —-Aaron Leitko
Edward J. Renehan Jr.’s Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, is the first new biography of the man in some 65 years. In that time, plenty of other historians have examined the Vanderbilt family as a whole, but Renehan focuses solely on the “bootstrapper” who birthed the family fortune through his massive transportation and financial dealings. Perhaps the most weighty new revelations from Renehan involve Vanderbilt’s notoriously erratic final years: According to newly unearthed records from his longtime personal physician, Renehan reveals that Vanderbilt suffered from advanced syphilis. And just in case you think that the Vanderbilt and Rockefeller mean nothing in this day of high-tech billionaires, keep this in mind: When he died in 1877, Vanderbilt left a fortune of some $103 million, which Renehan estimates would represent more than $150 billion in today’s dollars—dwarfing Bill Gates’ current $50 billion fortune. Renehan Jr. discusses and signs copies of his work at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. —-Mike DeBonis