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
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).
Neighborhood: Adams Morgan
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.
The Black Cat
Neighborhood: U Street/Cardozo (just a few blocks away from metro)
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.
Neighborhood: U Street area (accessible from greenline)
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.
Near DC (MD/VA)
Comet Ping Pong
Neighborhood: Technically DC but bordering on Chevy Chase, Connecticut Ave
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.
Neighborhood: Vienna, VA
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.
Honorable Mentions (also mostly larger venues):
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.
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