Hit a New Note: Alternative Music Venues to Visit in DC

Echostage and 9:30 not quite your forte? There are many, many other music venues in the DC metro area to explore. The area is a great place for music lovers as it offers venues of every stripe and style. If you are looking for smaller, cozier venues most of the ones on this list will likely fit you. So sit back, relax, and get ready to find your new go-to venue.



The Velvet Lounge

Neighborhood: U Street         

This Bag Is Not a Toy + Cutest Puppy In the World at the Velvet Lounge, Washington DC. Sonic Circuits 2008 opening night.

This Bag Is Not a Toy + Cutest Puppy In the World at the Velvet Lounge, Washington DC. Sonic Circuits 2008 opening night. Credit: IntangibleArts on Flickr Creative Commons

The Velvet Lounge is located right smack in the middle of U Street, near some of my favorite restaurants: El Centro, Ted’s Bulletin, and Busboys and Poets. Featuring both Bands and DJs, Velvet Lounge is 18+, and a bar/club with a moody and eclectic vibe. Great for a late night out. My recommendation, snag a great meal then check out a show. Tips: this venue has street parking only and tickets can be purchased at the doors only (cash only for tickets, ATM in venue, card or cash for drinks).

Search: Find Apartments Near U Street NW DC

Visit their website for more or check them out on Facebook.



Neighborhood: Adams Morgan

Performance at Songbyrd in Adams Morgan

Jackie Lynn (mem. Circuit des Yeux, Bitchin Bajas), Ancestral Duo ft. J.D. Parran, and Flash Frequency. Credit: Facebook

Ready to be transported the the most intimate and fun house show of your life? Check out Songbyrd’s Byrd Cage, a self described, “funky basement” where you can see your favorite local and even some national acts perform up close. Songbyrd is the place to be. Not only is it a music venue, but Songbyrd is also a record cafe complete with vinyl stacks with new and used records to purchase, as well as a restaurant and bar. You can also use their recording booth for a small fee.

Songbyrd offers a winning combination of life, color, character, food, and music with an adorable vintage vibe. Visit their website, and follow them on Facebook or @SongbyrdDC.


The Black Cat

Neighborhood: U Street/Cardozo (just a few blocks away from metro)

The Band Vetiver Performs at the Black Cat

Vetiver at the Black Cat by William Neuheisel on Flickr Creative Commons

The Black Cat is a quirky, punk venue that always has something going on. From Harry Potter Happy Hour to Cryfest (a dance party pitting the Cure against the Smiths in a competition for most heart wrenching lyrics), this cafe/bar/music venue has you covered any night of the week. In addition to creative events (with typically low covers or none at all), the Black Cat also books local, national, and international entertainers who perform on their two stages. They even have PINBALL machines! Tickets are typically available at the door and in advance, this varies from show to show and event to event.

Check out their schedule and be sure to follow them on social media (Facebook /@BlackCatDC on Twitter) to stay up to date on upcoming shows and events.


DC 9

Neighborhood: U Street area (accessible from greenline)

Octopus Project @ DC9

Octopus Project at DC9. Credit: Christy on Flickr Creative Commons

Food, fun, bands, djs, drinks, DC9 books a wide range of performers and you can easily have a full evening at this venue. They also have a roof deck and late night kitchen hours on Friday and Saturday night (for those us who get the drunchies). Recently, they’ve made Sundays a night to be out as well with their Sundays on the Roof Deck and Indie Rock Karaoke events. Visit their calendar to learn more about upcoming events.

See their website for more and follow them on Facebook or @dc9nightclub.


Near DC (MD/VA)

Comet Ping Pong

Neighborhood: Technically DC but bordering on Chevy Chase, Connecticut Ave

Soccer Team at Comet Ping Pong

Soccer Team at Comet Ping Pong by ManWomanGradyBaby on Flickr Creative Commons

Another cozy venue, Comet is by day and most nights an excellent pizza place with a terrific collection of ping pong tables in the back. However, Comet often clears out their ping pong tables to welcome bands to perform on the small stage they have in the back. I’ve seen some of my favorite local DC bands for the first time at this venue. Check out their schedule and also their menu. The locations is right on Connecticut, has a bar, small patio in front (with dreamy twinkle lights in the summer), and tables inside. It’s a super versatile venue, shows are all ages, and a go-to dinner spot too. They’re also rolling out new kids shows.

Related: 5 Reasons to Rent an Apartment in Chevy Chase

Check out their website. Don’t forget to follow them on Facebook or @cometpingpong.



Jammin Java

Neighborhood: Vienna, VA

The Fif Performs Live at Jammin Java

The Fif at Jammin Java by docmonstereyes on Flickr Creative Commons

Another kid-friendly venue, Jammin’ Java offers food, and performances for the whole family and a sweet back-story. It’s located semi close to Tysons. Invested in music, family, and community, the venue is down-to-earth, books a diverse range of performs, and also offers music lessons (The Music School at Jammin’ Java). You can even host your own private events with Jammin’ Java.

Check out their website. Follow them on Facebook or @jamminjava.


Honorable Mentions (also mostly larger venues):


The Fillmore Silver Spring (MD)

Bethesda Blues and Supper Club (MD)

Merriweather (MD)

Wolf Trap (VA)


This is by no means a comprehensive list. Some of these are personal favorites, venues on my bucket list, and what I consider to be some of the more unique and undervalued venues in the DC metro area.

Do you think this list is missing one of your top ten favorite venues? Feel free to add your own go-to places in the comments.

Find apartments in Northern VA, Metro MD, and Washington, D.C. with Apartment Showcase.

Elaina Hundley

Elaina Hundley is an education professional with a passion for cozy, affordable home decor. She loves coffee, watching "Fixer Upper," and tries to read and write as much as she can in her free time.

You may also like...