For many, the holidays are about taking stock, fretting and promising to do better next year. We make promises to exercise more, look less at our damn phones, read more books, save more money and watch less TV.
But top of my resolution list this year is a fun one: see more live music.
“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything,” says Plato—and Plato don’t lie. My imagination would indeed be a shadow of itself without music.
Luckily, DC has an amazing musical history—from early Ella Fitzgerald performances, to the birth of go-go and the highs of the hardcore punk scene—that draws plenty of musicians to our turf. So read on, Washingtonians, and make it your mission to see more music in 2015.
Black Cat: Opened in the early 1990’s to a 14th Street that the new DC crowd would not recognize, the Black Cat is a haven of independent and alternative bands. Go for performances by well-known artists like Neko Case and Arcade Fire or lesser-known bands like Pinkwash or Murder by Death (coming in early 2015). Black Cat is located at 1811 14th Street NW and can be visited online here.
9:30 Club: This is a great venue to see big-name bands without needing nosebleed-seat binoculars. The 9:30 Club originally opened at 930 F Street NW in 1980 and moved to 9th and V Streets NW in 1995. In its first decade, it was a hot spot for hardcore punk acts like Minor Threat, Fugazi, Government Issue and The Slickee Boys. Since then, there has been no shortage of big acts, including Bob Dylan, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead. Upcoming shows include Sleater-Kinney, PartyNextDoor and Galactic. 9:30 Club is located at 815 V St NW and can be visited online here.
Blues Alley: This Georgetown jazz dinner-and-nightclub was founded in 1965 and has hosted the likes of Charlie Byrd, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ahmad Jamal, Dr John, Wynton Marsalis and Taj Mahal. And for approximately 360 nights of the year, Blues Alley is dedicated to booking jazz musicians. Blues Alley is located at 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW and can be visited online here.
The Hamilton: The Hamilton is home to Sunday Gospel Brunch—shrimp, grits, collards, delicious—and is a great venue for musicians of every genre, from folk and jazz to yacht rock. As far as DC venues go, it’s new to the scene, but was designed in good taste and with great acoustics. Walls are lined with amazing portraits of beloved musicians (Dylan, Tupac, Gaye, Hendrix) and tables make a half circle around the stage. There’s not a bad seat in the house and you can get served food and drink while you watch. The Hamilton is located at 600 14th Street NW and can be visited online here. *Correction: The Hamilton no longer has Gospel Brunch every Sunday but worry not, they do provide Gospel Brunch on select holidays. So keep your eyes peeled!
The Howard Theatre: Howard Theatre is one of DC’s favorite, old-school music venues and—as I wrote earlier this year on Urban Scrawl—is considered a legend. It was the first legit US theater open to African Americans, and it put DC on the map as a cultural hot spot for Black America. After a much needed and much deserved facelift a few years ago, the theater is shining once again. Upcoming shows include Salt-N-Pepa (yes), DJ ?uestlove (or Questlove) and the Rebirth Brass Band. The Howard Theatre is located at 620 T Street NW and can be visited online here.
Madam’s Organ: Don’t know it? Just look for the giant mural of a well-endowed redhead and a sign that reads “Sorry, we’re open” in the center of Adams Morgan. Though it opened in 1992 as a blues and bluegrass bar, Madam’s Organ feels inside like it’s been there forever. They serve soul food and an eclectic crowd, and regular acts include locally and nationally touring funk, blues, bluegrass and R&B musicians. Madam’s Organ is located at 2461 18th Street NW and can be visited online here.
Echostage: Echostage is an ideal venue for electronic/club-heads, and it apparently boasts an impressive setup of electronic show accouterments, like LED visuals and superior sound design. International sensations Diplo, David Guetta, Calvin Harris and Avicii have all been featured acts. The venue opened in 2012 and includes 30,000 feet of club space. Echo Stage is located at 2135 Queens Chapel Road NE and can be visited online here.
Rock & Roll Hotel: Like Black Cat, this is a small venue with great up-and-coming and independent artists. The main performance room at Rock & Roll Hotel is intimate, conducive to dancing and has nice acoustics. Get in the mix at upcoming shows for acts including The Lucky So and So’s, Hemlines and Gully Waters. Rock & Roll Hotel is located at 1353 H Street NE, so go explore the ever-growing restaurant scene on H Street before taking in a show. Visit Rock & Roll Hotel online here.
More rockin’ DC venues:
U Street Music Hall
1115 U Street NW
Tree House Lounge
1006 Florida Avenue NE
3401 K Street NW
1940 9th Street NW
1344 U Street, Top Floor NW