D.C. is not just a college town. It’s a real city bursting with culture. D.C.’s music scene is alive and well, drawing in bands big and small all the time. The past few years have seen a resurgence of both national and local music in the city. Great shows are out there – students just have to know where to go.
9:30 Club: http://www.930.com
The 9:30 Club has been around in D.C. since the mid-’80s, but after renovations in 1995, it became host to larger acts. For D.C., it is the first step down from stadium-level shows, and most semi-popular groups who prefer an intimate club setting instead of a grandiose U2-style arena concerts set their gigs up at the 9:30. Like any club, 9:30 boasts the usual wet bar and manages to be vigilant about having ID. But it also offers a surprisingly decent snack bar and a tiny, balcony-level coffee bar. The club politely serves free pitchers of water during all concerts.
Although the club is only a few blocks from the African American Civil War Memorial Metro stop, any concertgoer should keep in mind that the Metro stops running at midnight from Sunday to Thursday. So be prepared to cough up the cash for a cab if the concert runs late.
Although 9:30 club still holds a good deal of punk/ska shows, it is just as likely to find acts like The Roots, Pharcyde or even James Brown performing on any given night. And despite the club’s name, never expect a concert to actually start at 9:30.
The Black Cat: www.blackcatdc.com
Although it’s only six years old, the Black Cat has become a landmark in the local music scene. It has hosted both regional and national acts of diverse alternative styles. Everyone from Ani DiFranco to The Offspring and even Korn (but don’t hold that against them) have set up shop on the club’s mainstage. The larger bands often have such good graces to invite obscure local bands to open up for them.
Though otherwise not considered a dance club, The Black Cat is home to The Mousetrap, a self-described “Britpop Dance” night, meaning basically The Cure, but also much more in the way of British pop music from across the decades. The monthly event has grown in popularity, so be prepared for a short wait on the sidewalk outside. It’s still worth the $5 dollar cover charge, but on a rainy night, be sure to bring an umbrella to protect that moptop.
The Red Room stands alongside the main Concert Room as the perfect no-cover hangout before the show, but despite the few beat up old couches, pool table and interesting paint job on the walls there is no denying that the main focus of the room is the bar. Food can also be ordered in the Red Room, but it is only advised in desperate cases.
The Black Cat is a short walk from the U Street/Cardozo Metro Stop, but expect weekday shows to run later than the Metro.
Metro Caf?: metrocafe.home.att.net
With a maximum room capacity of slightly more than 50 people, the Metro Caf? is the Black Cat’s Red Room put to better use. Not only does it host some of the best up-and-coming local bands, it also manages to squeeze in art exhibits, occasional films and decidedly nontraditional theatre performances. Most productions by D.C.’s Cherry Red Productions including the recent “Night of the Chihuahua” and “Seven Deadly Dwarves.”
Because the caf? usually tries to fit in a theater production at 7 p.m. and the bands hardly ever start before10 p.m., do not expect to make the Metro – which is alright, considering that there is no conveniently close stop. The brave and physically fit might choose to walk back to the GW campus, but getting a cab is not a problem.
The Metro Caf? also features resident DJs, and is suitable for a small chill hangout, with tables outside as well as inside the club. The club has no food license, meaning that not only will it not serve up anything non-alcoholic and solid, but God help you if you try and bring anything edible onto the premises.
Nation is a sometimes concert venue located in Southeast D.C. It features an eclectic musical lineup and hosts bands several times a month. In addition, the club transforms several times a week into a dance club hosting cutting edge electronic music, and very popular raves. It is the home every Friday to “Buzz,” one of D.C.’s most popular dance nights.
Generally the bands that play Nation are those just below the surface on the inner edge of obscurity, although Outkast made an appearance last year. The club itself is quite large with a capacity that is comparable to that of the 9:30 Club. Nation is a great place to see more obscure national acts on an impressive stage.
The club, formerly known as The Capital Ballroom, is located a few blocks from the Navy Yard Metro stop. The surrounding area is a bit rough, and walking with large groups is a good idea. Of course, the smart concertgoer avoids the whole Metro fiasco and takes a cab straight to the door. Shows are held at different times depending on the event.
Although the club is located in a somewhat sketchy area, shows there are highly attended.
The Kaffa House www.kaffahouse.com
In the ’80s, D.C. was the home of one of the most booming punk scenes in the nation. Punk legends like Minor Threat and the Bad Brains got their start playing in small D.C. clubs. Although many have cited a recent decline in the District’s music scene, a number of clubs are still working to bring the underground to D.C.
The Kaffa House, located near the U Street/Cardozo Metro stop, has hosted a number of bands in the past year and now regularly schedules bands on Sunday nights.
The Kaffa House is the venue that brings in obscure punk bands. If that’s not your scene, it is best to stay at home. But if real punk is your thing, you have to hit it. In the past year, punk acts such as The Templars, Violent Society and the Goons have played. This is the place to fulfill your punk needs.
St Andrew’s Church:
It’s true, this is a real church. On Sunday’s it’s a noted social venue, but probably not much of a place to see bands. During the week, it becomes something totally different.
St. Andrew’s host shows every couple of weeks and often brings in large punk, ska and emo acts. The church is located in Maryland but is accessible on the Metro.
This year they brought in noted acts such as A New Found Glory and Hatebreed.
Usually the crowds are pretty small, and this is the place to go if you want to see bands that are hot on the national underground. Generally the shows are cheap, and the sound quality is fairly impressive for a church.