The District’s best music venues

The District’s music scene
includes much more than big shows at the Verizon Center. Here are some of the more colorful places to take in a concert.

Video: Rock and Roll Hotel

9:30 Club

Where: 815 V St., N.W.

Getting there: Take the Green Line north to U Street and walk a block.

The good: The facilities. Named after the club’s original address at 930 F St., N.W., the club moved from the tiny, smelly confines of its old space in 1995 and into the enormous renovated warehouse it occupies today. The place is relatively clean (for a rock club), and the raised stage and balcony ensure that you’ll be able to see the band from anywhere in the venue.

The bad: The facilities. Though many will find the venue’s expansive, pristine quality to be an asset, others (namely those who like their rock shows with a bit of grit) will probably see the 9:30 Club as impersonal and tacky. If you like being closer than 20 feet from the knees of a band’s lead singer, the 9:30 Club isn’t the place for you. In addition, the post-show bottleneck of all 1,200 people leaving through one exit is almost always a nightmare.

Unique feature: Adjacent to one of the two bars on the ground floor of the venue is a small window where you can actually get fast food to go with your overpriced beer and/or non-alcoholic beverage. Don’t get too excited, though – the food’s overpriced as well.

Black Cat

Where: 1811 14th St., N.W.

Getting there: Take the Green Line north to U Street and walk for about five minutes.

The good: The bands. Indie, punk, hardcore, ska, world or otherwise – if there’s an underground band of any genre coming through D.C., you can bet that the Black Cat is one of the first places it calls. With an 800-person capacity, the club still feels incredibly intimate and almost never has barricades between the concert-goers and the stage.

The bad: The room itself. A word of advice to those who haven’t been here before: If you really care about the act you’re going to see, get there early. The line outside the club can be long and slow, and if you are standing more than 10 people away from the stage, your chances of seeing anything that happens declines considerably. Also, bring earplugs. It can get loud.

Unique feature: The backstage. Don’t get too excited – that’s just the name for the smaller, more intimate venue on the ground floor of the club, which hosts plenty of quality shows of its own. The room only has capacity for about 200 people, but shows there are usually unticketed and have a more relaxed atmosphere than the main stage.

Rock and Roll Hotel

Where: 1353 H St., N.E.

Getting there: Union Station is the closest Metro stop, but that is 15 blocks away – not an ideal distance to walk in Northeast D.C. So the best option is to cab it from the Union Station.

The good: The atmosphere. Let’s face it: you’re already on the H St. corridor, one of D.C.’s many not-so-nice neighborhoods. To expect a lavish music venue would be pretty unreasonable. The Rock and Roll Hotel is small, smells kind of bad and it’s about nine-million degrees inside at all times. But the venue has enough character to make all the negatives seem like charming positives. Besides, if you need to escape, the club has a more relaxed upstairs bar with themed rooms that can be rented out for private parties.

The bad: The neighborhood. If you thought getting there was a pain, wait until you try leaving. There’s guaranteed to be a hellishly long wait for a taxi, and the streets surrounding the venue look similar enough to each other that it is easy to get lost if you try to walk.

Unique feature: Of all the venues in D.C., the Rock and Roll Hotel deserves special mention for being the only major club to sells earplugs at the bar ($1 a pair). It may sound wimpy, but the next time your eardrum is getting assaulted with volumes louder than a jet engine, you’ll wish every venue could be as thoughtful of its patrons.

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