5 Suburban Music Venues to Check Out This Year

Yes, rock ’n’ roll is thought to be a city thing, and it is. But where do you think half the people currently living in the city, the concert ticket-buying public at least, come from? OK, likely more than half? The suburbs. Not that your Brookland or Arlington hipster would cop to it readily, or brag about it.

Come on, music and the suburbs is about getting in your car, jamming to tunes, and going to your friend’s house to watch MTV or “This is Spinal Tap,” or maybe a party while the parents are away or a shindig out in some field. Or it used to be. Now everything is done on a smartphone. To rock out properly, you need an app.

But technology doesn’t replace your need for live, visceral experience. So here are five places for apartment renters to check out in the hipster incubators of D.C. metroland.

[ Related: 5 Great Rock Music Venues in D.C. ]

1. The Birchmere
Your reviewer saw the great Frank Black Francis here in 2013 and even blogged about it. This may be the premiere dinner theater-type music club in the region, and the venue offers two stages, one in which you can sit down, have a meal and order a drink or two (or three) while the show goes on. The Birchmere, located just outside Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, trades in rootsy, singer/songwriter fare with a little bit of soul, country, jazz and rock thrown in. A nice date place.

The Birchmere
3701 Mount Vernon Ave.
Alexandria, Va. 22305

Iota Club (John Athayde via Flickr)

Genuine article: With its smaller stage and a lineup of acts that leans toward the obscure, Iota in Clarendon has a less corporate vibe than, say, Rams Head or The Fillmore. (John Athayde via Flickr)

2. Iota Club & Cafe
I’ve been here a couple times. Once, I saw Bro. Danielson grace its stage, and if you know anything about Bro. Danielson, we should probably talk and become music friends. Iota sits nestled on Clarendon’s (Arlington) Wilson Boulevard, close to Galaxy Hut. Given its tiny size, by necessity this venue caters toward singer/songwriters and lighter pop-rockers, the more eclectic the better. Another time I saw a girl get up onstage with a violin I think and do her thing. It’s generally pretty relaxed here. Lucky for you, the savvy renter, it’s located just down the street from the Clarendon Metrorail station on the Orange/Silver Line.

Iota Club & Cafe
2382 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, Va. 22201

3. Empire
Metal! It used to be called Jaxx, and it’s in a Springfield strip mall, but I had to give metal and hard rock a shout-out, and Empire provides it in spades. True, I’ve never been here, but you have to kinda like a venue featuring bands who’re likely to be guests on “That Metal Show”; I mean, where else is Faster Pussycat, who appeared here on April 24, gonna play? And heavier metalheads can rejoice in being able to see bands like Prong and Septic Flesh; even Christian metalcore/post-hardcore band Wolves at the Gate recently graced the stage, so it’s not all a den of sin. For what it’s worth, Empire serves food too. Metal!

6355 Rolling Road
Springfield, Va. 22152

[ Related: Galaxy Hut: Come for the Music, Stay for the Beer ]

4. Rams Head On Stage
Part of restaurant/music venue conglomerate Rams Head Group, Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis has been packing them in since 1997. Similar to the Birchmere, this is a supper club of sorts; it’ll both feed and entertain you with established touring acts, catering to a generally older, more laid-back set. So, while you probably won’t see Florence and the Machine or, um, Slayer here, you will see the likes of Edwin McCain, John Sebastian and Lisa Loeb. Though Rams Head On Stage did book Scott Weiland & the Wildabouts earlier this week, so maybe the venue is upping its fallen rock ’n’ roller street cred?

Rams Head On Stage
33 West St.
Annapolis, Md. 21401

5. The Fillmore Silver Spring
OK, the Fillmore Silver Spring is a pretty big venue, seating 2,000 people, and it’s run in partnership with Montgomery County. Yes, it rips off one of the most famous rock clubs in history, the legendary San Francisco music haunt the Fillmore (both venues are affiliated with mammoth Live Nation), but I’m assuming it’s still a great place to see a rock ’n’ roll band (or any type of musical act) perform. Yelp users give it an average of 3.5 stars, so that’s promising. The Fillmore Silver Spring features some pretty big upcoming shows, including punk legends Social Distortion, jam band Blues Traveler and post-hardcore screamo outfit Falling in Reverse.

The Fillmore Silver Spring
8656 Colesville Rd.
Silver Spring, Md. 20910

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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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