The Best Live Music Venues in 11 DC Neighborhoods

Published On 04/29/2015 Published On 04/29/2015
Eighteenth Street Lounge
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1. 9:30 Club 815 V St NW , Washington, DC , DC 20001

Part iconic music venue, and part relentless party haven, D.C.'s 9:30 club is something to behold. The dual-floored space often approaches its 1,200 person capacity, packing its ground floor as well as its wrap-around balcony. Everyone (who's anyone) from Bob Dylan and The Beastie Boys, to Adele and deadmau5 has walked 9:30's stage, while on performer-less nights, the venue hosts a DJ (complete with a light show), instantly converting the audience standing room into a spirited dance floor. You can't sit down (but maybe you can crowd surf), the music is deafeningly loud (but always good), and there is a dive bar tucked into the corner of the main floor (which doubles as a convenient make out cave). The place even has a rewards program for drinks, tickets, and merch to honor its most dedicated regulars.

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2. Bohemian Caverns 2001 11th St , Washington , DC 20001

U Street's "Sole Home of Soul Jazz", Bohemian Caverns is one of the oldest jazz clubs out there. It’s provided awesome date nights of live jazz and candlelight since it opened in 1926. You name it, and they’ve performed here: Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

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3. Rock & Roll Hotel 1353 H St NE, Washington, 20002

H Street's Rock & Roll Hotel offers DC something that is needed in any music scene: a dive bar with great shows. It’s crowded, has no frills, and it makes no excuses for what it is. So leave your inhibitions behind, drink some cheap beer, and prepare to stand shoulder-to-shoulder listening to rising music acts.

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4. New Vegas Lounge 1415 P St NW, Washington, 20005

Fact: it is impossible to be in a bad mood while listening to Motown. Second fact: the place to do that in DC is Vegas Lounge in Logan Circle. With the venerable in-house band, the Out of Town Blues Band, playing incredible blues and Motown covers ranging from Ray Charles to Al Green, it’s guaranteed to be a feel-good time. It can fill up fast, but stake out some real estate early and it’ll be well worth the $10 cover. Plus, if you aren’t an ass about it, you can get the band to play your requests.

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5. Eighteenth Street Lounge 1212 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

Eighteenth Street Lounge holds five dimly-lit rooms of live music and DJs for you to explore while impressing your out-of-town friends by showing them this "secret" lounge that's really not-so-secret anymore. Show up on Wednesdays for a sweet reggae night, backed by a live band.

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6. The Howard Theatre 620 T St NW, Washington, DC 20001

A historic 1910 theatre, The Howard was home to movers and shakers such as Booker T. Washington and iconic performers like Otis Redding, The Supremes, and Aretha Franklin. A beacon of hope during the racist turmoil of the early 20th century, the theatre closed in the late '60s. The Howard opened its doors again for the first time in 2012, boasting a 29-million-dollar remodel. With a well preserved legacy, the theatre now has new life, hosting influential acts like The Roots.

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7. Madam's Organ 2461 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

This rowdy four-floor D.C. bar maintains the motto, "Where the Beautiful People Go to Get Ugly" -- locals will tell you that the statement holds. Known for the throngs of lively college kids stumbling in and out of its entryways until 3 am, this Adams Morgan spot is a fantastically irreverent crowd favorite. The bar has everything from a year-round roof deck, to live music, trivia, and "Drunkeoke" (it's exactly what you think). Stationed right in the heart of trendy Adams Morgan, Madam's serves a number of sandwiches and bar snacks, along with a full list of soul food entrees -- but it seems that drinking is the preferred means of consumption. The house cocktail menu is impressive, and upon request, the bartenders will top any drink off with a shot of red bull. So, whether searching for soul food and live blues, or 22-year-olds taking tequila shots while belting Christina Aguilera songs, Madam's Organ is certainly the place.

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8. Gypsy Sally's 3401 K St NW, Washington, 20007

Gypsy Sally's is, in a word, exactly what Georgetown needs. Located on the Georgetown waterfront amidst a sea of ultra-chic stores and overpriced restaurants, Gypsy Sally’s adds a much-needed dose of soul and humility to the bougie area. Billing itself as a "venue for serious music lovers who don’t take themselves too seriously" Gypsy Sally’s delivers on it’s promise, providing everything from reggae to roots rock to jam bands on its main stage on any given night.

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9. The Birchmere 3701 Mount Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305

The Birchmere is a historic music hall, and has gained a reputation for the intimate experience it provides concertgoers. With it’s front-row tables merely two feet from the stage and a capacity of only 500, The Birchmere is able to attract big acts in a venue that makes you feel as though you are part of the action.

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10. The Fillmore 8656 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Firmly cementing Frommer's assertion that downtown Silver Spring has totally replaced San Francisco as the country's cultural epicenter: The Fillmore, a 23000sqft, two-floored music hall with velvet drapes framing the main stage, three full-service bars twisted from reinforced steel, and the "VIP Vertigo Lounge", presumably so named because of all the looking down you'll be doing on people who aren't allowed in.

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11. IOTA Club and Cafe 2832 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

IOTA is great for live music, and of course, their classic Southern-style food. Must-try items include Carolina fried chicken and collards, plus any of their "smashers", a.k.a sandwiches. They also do brunch, and the star of the show is their "Generous Breakfast Bread Pudding".

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12. Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club 7719 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

Prepare to consider Maryland a swing state, because the Bethesda Theatre (built in '38) is now a blues & jazz supper club thanks to an $8 million renovation. With art deco wall sconces & metallic wrapping fixtures, the bi-level, 500-seat amphitheater rocks a 40ft bar beside a high-top table lounge.