4 of the Most Iconic Live Music Venues to Visit in D.C.
Washington D.C. has long been considered a hotbed for arts, culture, and international exchange. Nowhere is this more evident than in DC’s thriving music scene, which has been producing and nurturing fine artists and bands for decades.
Did you know that DC has produced highly successful music artists in nearly every genre? In fact, DC has been a major influence in the creation of new music genres, especially in the hardcore and post-punk scene. Students, professionals, and out-of-town visitors have all been enjoying the local DC music action for ages. Here are some must-visit live music venues in DC, which have shaped the trademark DC sound, which in turn has shaped American music across multiple genres:
Rock Out at the Black Cat
1811 14th St. NW
The Black Cat is one of the most famous DC live music venues, and one that captures the essence and spirit of DC’s innovative music and arts scene. The venue has been operating since 1993, and has been providing DC residents with the best in live, independent, and up-and-coming music acts. The Black Cat was founded by a group of individuals (one of whom was Dave Grohl!) who were dedicated to increasing the amount and quality of live music venues in DC.
This is the best place to catch that up-and-coming punk band you’ve heard of that hasn’t quite hit the big time yet. Many, many bands and artists have gotten their start performing at the Black Cat. The list of artists that has performed at The Black Cat is truly impressive, and includes Drive Like Jehu, At the Drive In, Lightning Bolt, and DC-based groups The Dismemberment Plan and Not U.
Continue the DC Live Music Fun at 9:30 Club
815 V St. NW
This is another historic DC live music venue, also known for its thriving hardcore punk scene. Since 1980, 9:30 Club has been delivering smashing performances and introducing the world to the best local talent. Past performers have included a wide range of acts, including The Replacements, Animal Collective, Bob Dylan, Adele, and local bands like Fugazi and Government Issue. You’ll enjoy pristine sound quality, excellent seat views, and a down-to-earth atmosphere at this historic live music venue. Bonus: Tickets are surprisingly affordable!
See an Elegant Show at the Kennedy Center
2700 F St. NW
If you’re into a more formal live music experience, DC’s got you covered with the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, locally known as “KC”. This is the place to be if you’re looking to catch a live choir performance, theatrical musicals, operas, symphonies, ballets, and similar entertainment (think Phantom of the Opera, Shear Madness, and The Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra). Visit their regular calendar to choose from world-class performers.
Tip: You can sometimes catch additional free shows in the lobby areas or at the Millennium Stage. The Kennedy Center will also occasionally feature pop and mainstream artists as well.
Experience a Multiplicity of Genres at Madam’s Organ
2461 18th St. NW
For a wide variety of genres, including blues, jazz, rock, reggae, and more, Madam’s Organ is your best bet. Madam’s Organ features music every day of the week with regular local talent as well as featured artists. Review their schedule for upcoming shows, karaoke nights, comedy nights, and other fun gigs. Oh, and did we mention that their food menu is legit? A tasty selection of soul food, bbq dishes, and drinks keeps you rockin’ throughout the night!
There are tons of other live music venues all over DC, including more intimate jazz lounges, basement dance spots, and local pub/coffee shop talent. These are just a few of the historic venues that you should visit when you get the chance. Some of these spots might become your favorite venues, and you might end up being a regular!
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