915 U St. N.W.
In my opinion, velvet sucks. I hate the texture, shimmer and sound of the uncomfortable fabric. Frankly, it is ugly, but one thing I cannot deny is the word association velvet conjures toward music. Velvet Underground was perhaps one of the most influential art rock bands of all time, Velvet Revolver is a culmination of Guns N’ Roses (minus Axel) and Scott Weiland (of Stone Temple Pilots). “Black Velvet” is the annoying but catchy song from 1989 that too many people try covering on American Idol. While my disdain for the fabric is strangely intense, the above connotations made it manageable to visit this installment’s bar: Velvet Lounge.
Velvet Lounge is a bit of a hike from Foggy Bottom, but when your friend has a car the trip goes a lot faster. For those of you not privileged with classy transportation, you can easily reach this bar off the U-Street / Cardozo green line. Not as widely known as 9:30 Club, Black Cat, Rock and Roll Hotel and DC9, Velvet Lounge is a dive bar that attracts the musical talents of several local bands, even some that have roots at GW.
A lounge it is not, however. This venue is so small that you cannot really lounge . or move . or even bob your head – but you can listen to music in the company of other 20-somethings with your fantastic music taste. C’mon you know you do.
Packed like a sardine (on a good night) and smelling something with that same odor, Velvet Lounge definitely sets an environment reminiscent to a band’s practice garage. The room and lighting is sparse, in effect allowing sound to travel a lot more and heads to bang – or think about banging much harder. It is a perfect rock haven.
The layout of Velvet Lounge is pretty simple. The first floor showcases a bar with raved-about martinis while the upstairs presents the stage and performance space. Since the space is pretty small, the bar reached capacity pretty quickly on Friday night and the wait for some to filter out took about 20 minutes. I could complain to you all about waiting outside in the cold, but the truth is that I felt like it was just another obstacle that initiates you into the dive bar world. The people waiting outside with us were extremely friendly and even the bouncers seemed to be in good spirits, despite the drunk college crowd that was literally shaking the foundation. We huddled together and cheered as we finally made our way into the lounge and up the stairs to see the band perform.
The U-Street bar scene definitely has an appeal about it that sets it apart from Adams Morgan, Dupont and Georgetown. Hipsters in the D.C. area tend to gather here to stimulate their musical curiosity and be seen by others who share the same interests. There are lots of nose studs and scarves, blazers and dunks, and black nails and beer.and I guess I loved every minute of it. Maybe velvet is not so bad.
Bar Belle rating: two of four bells.