Random Nerds serves a national readership, but we live and pursue happiness in Washington, D.C.; a city that, in the past 20 years, has transformed from a sleepy quasi-southern town to a vibrant center of cosmopolitan musical entertainment. Award-winning venues like the 9:30 Club attract top-tier national talent, while our dynamic local music scene provides more intimate (and often more raucous) live experiences.

To be honest, there is now more going on in D.C. on any given week than we could ever hope to see. As such, I have volunteered to begin curating the best musical offerings each month; within a fiscally-responsible budget of $202 dollars.


Since we’re already halfway through November, I’m going to assume you’ve spent roughly $101 so far this month (presumably on Grizzly Bear at The Anthem and/or Beachers at The 9:30 Club). As such, I’m temporarily reducing our working budget to $101 in the 202. Fortunately, that’ll still get you more than enough stimulating entertainment to bookend your annual late-November food coma.

Just don’t forget that music is soul food, too.


Starting budget: $101


Sunday, November 19th: Colleen, Dawkins
Location: Songbyrd Music House
Cost: $13

Colleen’s atmospheric and restrained electronic music is exactly what you need before Thanksgiving week.

Under the stage name of French multi-instrumentalist, Cécile Schott, Colleen’s layered, meditative synths, arpeggio-heavy compositions, and breathy vocals will put you in a state of tranquility that should last at least a day or two into Thanksgiving festivities with your politically opposed family.

The opening course of this tryptophan-inducing, ear-feast is the budding experimental pop band Dawkins, who are increasingly dabbling in ambient soundscapes to much acclaim by this one author right here.

Remaining budget: $88


Sunday, November 26th: Kamasi Washington
Location: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
Cost: $45

You don’t need to know anything about jazz to lose your mind at this show.

While Kamasi Washington’s universal acceptance among jazz traditionalists and younger progressive jazz experimentalists remains more artistically important than any cultural accolade that even the mighty Kendrick Lamar # could bestow upon him, the masterful tenor saxophonist’s sets achieve the enthralling spontaneity of a jazz jam and the updated groove of hip-hop.

Washington will vivify his jazz ensemble — likely featuring 6-8 players; including two drum kits, trombones, and vocals — underneath Sixth & I’s vaulted ceiling and dramatic arches, making well worth the lofty $45 ticket price.

Remaining budget: $43


Monday, November 27th: St. Vincent
Location: The Anthem
Cost: $44

If you know anything about St. Vincent, you should be willing to pay at least $40-100 to see her perform anywhere; a Target parking lot, a middle school cafeteria, an airport bathroom.

Live, the stage persona of Annie Clark is known to go the extra mile with costuming, stage design, and her personal performance. But unlike the mega-pop stars who blow so much confetti in your face you can’t see their mediocre talent, St. Vincent’s lyrical, vocal, and instrumental magnetism is always the star of the show.

St. Vincent is recreated with each distinct album. In contrast to some of her more demure and technical work, this year’s Masseduction is surreal and saturated with a tongue-in-cheek intelligent sexiness that St. Vincent has been trailblazing for years.

Blessedly, she is playing DC’s polished new venue, The Anthem, whose wide stage and tiered balconies almost make up for their no-cash bar policy.

Remaining budget: -$1


Thursday, November 30th: NUEX
Location: Luce Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Cost: $0

When you’ve blown a lot of cash in one week, The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Luce Unplugged series can always be relied upon to offer you glowing local talent at no cost.#

I’ve caught NUEX’s darkly enchanting set in a few basements, a small venue, and one large garden, and each time I am torn between standing transfixed and attempting to dance in a manner appropriate to their innovative and dramatic pop.

They only have a few songs publicly released, but “Billie” is a track so good I had to rip the audio off a live YouTube video so that I could have it on hand at all times:

If you can get off work early enough, the show is preceded by a short art talk on a piece of artwork chosen by the duo.

Proof that the best things in life DC are free.

Remaining budget: $-1


Thursday, November 30th: Janel Leppin
Location: Dew Drop Inn
Cost: $7

The other great thing about the Luce Unplugged Series is that it finishes up early enough for you to catch an extra show in the same night.

I highly recommend Janel Leppin’s 8:30 set at the cozy, local bar, Dew Drop Inn.

Leppin’s latest release, American God (released on her self-run label Wedderburn Records) is an uncommon Trump-era political record, propelled by Leppin’s masterful cello, mellotron keyboard, and pointed use of effects pedals:

On its own, the cello is one of the more captivating live instruments. Under Leppin’s control, however, its large, warm sound can be reversed at the drop of a hat to create suitably harsh and powerful sounds that will leave you as shook as the morning after the 2016 election.

The harsh solo that punctuates the album’s title track, “American God,” three-and-a-half minutes in should be more than enough to convince you to get to this show.

Remaining budget: $-8


So we went over our truncated budget by a hair. Nevertheless, I firmly believe this platter of shows will satiate your artistic soul like grandpa after his third slice of pumpkin pie.

Take a moment to digest, and I’ll see you in December.