Washington DC tourists tend to go to monuments, see historical sights, or walk along the beautiful Potomac River. DC might be known as a political city. But when the sun goes down, us Washingtonians know how to have a good time. DC has a vibrant, and underrated concert scene. This scene includes venues of all sizes and quality, each focused on making an impact on the art scene. Here’s a guide, from a concert-loving DC resident, of the different venues that have shaped our city.
For a Small, Intimate Show – The Blackcat
Location: 14th Street
The Blackcat is a small concert space specializing in alternative/indie music acts. The space features the iconic black and white tiled floor, and an industrial vibe. The venue was founded in 1993 and was backed by investor and music icon Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. The space also features a first-floor small performance space called the Backstage, with the larger space being called Mainstage. Check this venue out for a look into the history of the DC music scene and an infectious vibe, no matter the headliner. However, expect some facility aspects to
For All Kinds of Music Fans – The Kennedy Center
Location: Foggy Bottom
The Kennedy Center is a large-scale event center featuring 3 main performance spaces. The center, opened in 1971, is the US National Cultural Center, is named in remembrance of John F. Kennedy. The venue has a main concert hall, featuring the National Symphony Orchestra, along with the Opera House and Eisenhower Theater. In addition, there’s plenty of other performance spaces throughout the center. This venue is perfect for any type of music fan, mainly those who enjoy classical music, or artists from around the globe. However, modern music fans might find the programming to be lacking.
Note: Dress up for an event at the Kennedy Center.
For Outdoor Music Fans – MERRIWEATHER Post Pavilion
Location: Columbia, Maryland
Maybe this is cheating because this venue is in Maryland. However, given DC’s limited space, this venue functions as the cities main amphitheater. Despite the drive from the city, this venue makes it hard to go back. This space is gorgeous, built just close enough to downtown Columbia, MD for a good time during the day. The venue is built in the woods and features the Chrysalis stage, a small standing room only stage in the back of the venue designed both for the All Things Go Music Festival and outdoor shows during the summer. If attending a show here, please make note of the weather. I was at this venue when it flooded and it is not a good experience.
The Best Concert Venue in DC – 9:30 Club
Location: U Street
This is a hotly debating topic among DC concert goers: 9:30 or the Anthem. When originally crafting this list, I had the Anthem as my favorite venue in the city. It’s brand-new space, along with the best acoustics around make this a contender for the best venue in the city. However, a concert in the 9:30 is unlike any other. The venue is historic, reopening in 1996 after the original 9:30 club was closed. Some famous acts that have played the venue include Chuck Brown, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and more. THe venue feels classic, with every feature from acoustics to entering at the very best in the city. Definitely prioritize seeing this venue on any trip to DC.
Note: The 9:30 cupcakes are worth the hype and definitely worth a try
DC’s scene in general is fantastic. Known for their local Go-Go music scene, some of the best Jazz anywhere, and hype crowds. However, no venue is like another. When picking one to visit, keep in mind the music you enjoy, and the location of the venue. Some venues, while fantastic, might have a lineup different from your own music preferences. However, I would recommend the 9:30 club to any visitor to DC. They have the widest array of artists, as well as an intimate vibe not found at many venues in the city.
Here at Mic Drop Music, we want to know what your favorite venue is? Drop the name on our Instagram!