Concerts at arenas and stadiums– while they feature exciting big names– can be overwhelming and require a big time commitment.
DC has a thriving music scene and its clubs have hosted some of the biggest names in all genres. They’re more affordable than big name shows and boast new, exciting artists and friendly crowds. Who knows? The unknown soul-soaked voices you hear tonight could be the next big thing tomorrow.
The 9:30 Club is a staple of DC’s live music scene. It’s also one of the best places in the country to see a concert. That is not simply the personal opinion of Walk the Moon and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, but also the countless concertgoers that have frequented the 9:30 Club since 1980. In 2013 Rolling Stone Magazine called it the best big room in America.
Capacity: 1200 | Location: 815 V Street NW
Notable acts: Bob Dylan, Fall Out Boy, Walk the Moon, Bastille, the Beastie Boys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Ed Sheeran, Adele.
U Street Music Hall
Affectionately called U Hall, U Street Music Hall is a partner venue of the 9:30 Club. It is DJ-owned and operated and therefore plays host to more DJ sets than indie bands.
Like the 9:30 Club, it is also highly acclaimed by Rolling Stone Magazine, having been named the #10 best dance club in America in 2013. The venue has its own charity, the U Street Music Foundation, to benefit music education programs for youth in Ward 1 and around DC.
Capacity: 500 | Location: 1115 U Street NW
Notable Acts: Rudimental, Disclosure, Sam Smith, Kiesza, Robyn, Skrillex
The world’s largest live music discovery community is now in Washington, DC. SoFar Sounds curates secret, intimate gigs in unique spaces all around the world. Their mission is to bring the magic back to live music. Most shows are small and incredibly affordable– attendees pay a small fee or whatever they can to attend. View their upcoming shows here.
Rock & Roll Hotel
The Rock & Roll Hotel is named aptly, despite not actually being a hotel. Its décor is grungy, full of personality, and looks like it should be haunted. It has three functional floors: the concert hall, second floor, and rooftop deck. During the show there is no cover charge for entry to the second floor and roof, and on Sundays there are rooftop movie nights. Even if not going to a concert, the Rock & Roll Hotel is a fabulous place to simply get drinks with your friends.
Capacity: a few hundred | Location: 1353 H Street NE
Notable acts: New Politics, Magic Man, Holychild, Four Year Strong, Lawson, The Wanted
The Black Cat
One of the original investors in The Black Cat is everyone’s favorite broken-leg-performer and Foo Fighter, Dave Grohl. The Black Cat is home to the well-stocked Red Room bar and the Food for Thought Café, whose specialty is vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Capacity: 700 at Mainstage, 200 at Backstage | Location: 1811 14th Street NW
Notable acts: Arcade Fire, Beck, Blur, Regina Spektor, Death Cab for Cutie, The Strokes, Talib Kweli, White Stripes, Foo Fighters
Fillmore Silver Spring
The Fillmore Silver Spring is a well-known name in the world of American live music. It is strikingly clean and easy to access, and the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling in the main hall give it some kind of je ne sais quoi. There is something immensely satisfying about seeing a huge act like Panic! at the Disco in a room full of only 2000 people and there is no such thing as a bad vantage point, even if you’re in the back of the room.
Capacity: 2000 | Location: 8656 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD
Notable acts: Panic! at the Disco, The Wanted, Little Mix, Meghan Trainor, A$AP Ferg, Jhené Aiko, Jason Derulo, Childish Gambino, Karmin, All Time Low
Paste Magazine named Jammin’ Java one of America’s 40 best music venues. Originally a Christian-themed venue, it was renovated and re-opened in 2001 by the Brindley Brothers as a venue for local and touring artists. The coffee bar sells beer, wine, and award-winning chili.
Jammin Java has been named to Pollstar‘s list of the world’s 100 top club venues.
Capacity: 200 | Location: 227 Maple Ave E, Vienna, VA
Photo courtesy of SoFar Sounds