5 Great Rock Music Venues in D.C.

1. 9:30 Club
It’s the killer, the big indie/major/whatever stage for indie/major/whatever rock bands, and the premier concert venue in the city (aside from Verizon Center, which is an arena and famously multipurpose).

The 9:30 Club started life in 1980 at original location 930 F St., N.W. (hence the name), but it’s now ensconced on V Street. If there’s something you heard on the radio you liked and wanted to see it performed live, the 9:30 Club would be your best bet (upcoming shows include Walk the Moon – 4/16, 4/17; the Wombats – 4/30). Older, more established acts grace the stage as well (They Might Be Giants – 4/24; Ben Folds with yMusic: The DC Tour – 5/8).

While the 9:30 Club does dabble in other genres, rock still rules, and it remains the best place in the region to see established acts before they go all U2 on us. Any apartment renter in D.C. that loves rock ’n’ roll should make the trek.

Metrorail: U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo, Green/Yellow Line.

9:30 Club
815 V St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

2. Black Cat
With a name like this, how can it miss? This venerable indie rock club has been around since 1993, and it’s the place to catch bands before they hit the 9:30 Club level, though some do play both.

Black Cat (Chris Trotter via Flickr)

Make it so: The Black Cat features two stages for music plus the no-cover Red Room Bar. On Fridays and Saturdays, they screen episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Daria.” (Chris Trotter via Flickr)

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The Black Cat is smaller, a bit more intimate, and these days, a lot more diverse. Not only do you get to see supposedly cool bands man the Mainstage (and seasoned vets touring to make a living; a boatload of who’s who in indie rock have played the Black Cat), you also get to check out the Red Room Bar (which I liked the times I’ve been there), the small Backstage concert room (now this is intimate) right next to it, or even get something to eat at the Food for Thought Café. Here’s an upcoming schedule.

Metrorail: U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo, Green/Yellow Line.

Black Cat
1811 14th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009

3. The Velvet Lounge
I first set foot in this tiny space way back in 2000, back when it had different owners. It truly was indie back then. Now it’s a little more corporate, but from the looks of the upcoming schedule, the bands are at least as obscure these days.

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This is probably the best place to see a band if you really like getting up close and personal (it’s a two-story converted row house with performances on the second floor); you can pretty much touch the bands as they play. It has (or had) a perfect punk rock, dive feel. I was so taken by the small space that I set a fiction scene there many moons ago and even hand-delivered a stack of the magazines the excerpt was featured in at the venue to be given out. Memories. The Velvet Lounge is located down the street from the 9:30 Club.

Metrorail: U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo, Green/Yellow Line.

Velvet Lounge
915 U St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

4. DC9
DC9 rounds out the four-headed rock club hydra in the U Street Corridor, and what do you know, it features a bunch of obscure indie rock. The establishment also hosts occasional dance nights, where the club tries to get you to hand over your smartphone at the door, or at least put it away. Good policy. I like this place better all the time.

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DC9 is stanchioned in what I think was an old row house on 9th Street, so, including the roof it has three levels. It also has a pretty substantial menu.

Metrorail: U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo, Green/Yellow Line.

1940 9th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

5. Rock & Roll Hotel
Another rock club with a rooftop, the Rock & Roll Hotel is one of the jewels in the H Street renewal, bringing hipsters and rockers to the premises for concerts and more than a few dance nights.

Somewhat coincidentally, I saw Local H play here a few years back. Though the in-house décor was trying a little hard, for the most part this is a nice rock club, sort of like the Black Cat but not quite.

The schedule mixes the obscure with a few bands that have name recognition (the Rentals, Suicide Machines, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead), and it has a small but functional menu of bar food. It’s Happening H Street’s most happening place.

Metrorail: Union Station, Red Line. (You will have to walk a bit though.)

Rock & Roll Hotel
1353 H St., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002

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Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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