Intimate D.C. Venues Host Famous Faces, Live Shows

Who doesn't like jamming along to their favorite tunes? Don't deny it. That was you singing along during your workout and in the shower too. It's OK. We aren't Simon Cowell. We don't judge.

Many listen to MP3s, satellite radio or even – gasp – CDs, but nothing beats seeing your favorite performers and bands live in concert. For music fans of every genre, Washington, D.C. has a treasure trove of musical venues boasting big name artists along with up and coming ones on the brink of fame.   

For those who are ready to rock, try the 9:30 Club or Black Cat. If you are looking to get lost in jazz, Blues Alley or Bohemian Caverns are both great choices. Most of these venues offer first-come, first-serve seating so if you want to get close to your favorite singer or band, come early and be ready to wait.

The best part about these venues is they are mainly small and intimate. It won't be like going to Nationals Park, paying a huge sum of money and sitting in the nose bleed section. You will actually get to see artists up close and personal. So get ready to help your favorite singer hit their high note – or at least just sing along with them – at these top D.C. venues.


U Street Music Hall
Photo courtesy of U Street

A DJ owned and operated facility, this basement dance club has one of the best sound systems in the district that will get you moving to the music. Featuring two bars and a 1,200 square foot dance floor, this venue hosts both amazing DJs and live concerts. There is no VIP area or bottle service so people just focus on having a good time discovering new talent or cherishing ones they already know. Some shows are for all ages while club nights are for 18 and up only. There is no dress code so wear whatever you want! METRO: U Street/Cardozo

Co-owner Farid Nouri wanted to establish a nightlife spot that he would want to go to himself. "Enough energy for a party but a place where people can socialize in an intimate environment." Known as "The Lounge," the club has five areas to mingle including a jazz and deck bar. While DJs lay down the hottest tracks in one room another may feature live music ranging from traditional jazz to reggae to Latin music. Located in Dupont CIrcle, the club may be hard to find if it's your first time because there are no signs to let you know you have arrived but it does make you feel like you are 'in the know' on a private secret when you find the door. METRO: Dupont Circle.

Howard Theatre
Photo courtesy of Howard Theatre

First opened in 1910 and geared toward African American musical acts, the Howard Theatre underwent renovations in 2010 and reopened its doors in 2012. Some of the recent shows include Salt N Peppa, Babyface, and Jody Watley. Like many other venues, seats are on a first-come, first serve basis. Singing along to some of your favorite tunes can work up a thirst so hit up their bar for refreshments including wine and specialty cocktails or grab a bite to eat off their menu with appetizers and entrees available. Be sure to check out their nightclub when an amazing concert isn't planned. METRO: Shaw-Howard U

The Hamiliton
Photo courtesy of The Hamiliton

Named for the Founding Father who was infamously killed in a duel by Aaron Burr, this venue offers guests the chance to eat, drink and listen to great music from a number of different genres. Live shows can seat up to 300 guests and another 250 standing in the two bar areas. Satisfy your stomach before the show by grabbing dinner here. They offer multiple different menus including lunch, dinner, sushi, brunch and dessert. Be sure to sample their late night menu featuring milkshakes, malts and boozy shakes. Don't leave without trying the toasted marshmallow and the Grand Marnier creamsickle. METRO: Metro Center

This U Street neighborhood venue promises "Music for the 21st Century" and they deliver by bringing patrons a mix of both local and national acts playing a wide range of musical genres. With a laid back vibe, patrons can hang out at the basement bar, watch a performance on the music stage or head to the rooftop deck. There is limited seating because the venue encourages those attending concerts to stand up, dance or rock out to the music. There is no dress code so wear whatever you want. They don't have a coat check so be ready to hold one during the colder months. METRO: U Street/Cardozo.

Photo courtesy of Birchmere

This well-known music hall has welcomed many famous faces to its performance stage like Dave Matthews, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lee Ann Womack and Aaron Neville just to name a few. The flex stage is where you will find the more dance oriented shows while the music hall is all seated with tables for a more intimate setting. Unlike other musical venues, The Birchmere is open to all ages for every show. Come hungry and sample some of their menu items from appetizers to entrees and select a drink off their beverage menu including wines, soft drinks, draft and beer bottles.

Walk through the doors of this Georgetown gem and you will be transported back to the supper clubs of the 1920s and 1930s. Founded in 1965, many well-known artists have played here including Dizzy Gillespie and Wynton Marsalis. While taking in a performance, treat yourself to their scrumptious menu with entrees named after jazz greats like Tony Bennett's shrimp and artichoke hearts and Jerry 'The Iceman' Butler baked salmon. This venue is known as a listening club so be respectful during performances. Once you purchase tickets, make sure you can attend because sales are final and non-refundable. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis so get there early. METRO: Foggy Bottom

Nightclub 9:30
Photo courtesy of gatzy

The official title is Nightclub 9:30 but most know the venue as the 9:30 Club. Some of the most popular names and bands in music perform at this intimate venue. Just scroll through the upcoming shows list and you will be amazed by the talent. While you are enjoying some incredible music, order a tasty dish off their menu which includes vegetarian and vegan friendly items or stop by one of four bars for beer, spirits or non-alcoholic beverages. They even have a coffee bar for those who may want a caffeine boost to take in their favorite performers. METRO: U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo.

Bohemian Caverns

Trying to find Bohemian Caverns is not hard. Just look for the oversized saxophone and piano keys that adorn the outside walls. Once you step inside, be teleported back to the 1920s when the club was first established. The nightclub boats being the sole home of soul jazz and has welcomed many legends such as Miles Davis, Nina Simone and Ramsey Lewis. With a supper club layout, guests may order from their dinner menu while attending a show. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Tickets may be purchased online but are non-refundable so try to make it to the show. METRO: U Street/Cardozo.

U Street

Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, Radiohead and The Strokes are just some of the bands that have played The Black Cat. Since 1993, the club has been bringing patrons the best in live independent music. The 7,000 square foot main concert room hosts the big acts while the backstage suite offers a more intimate experience with indie, punk and garage rock bands, solo artists, DJs dance nights and independent film screenings. The club is heavy on rock music, they also host DJs, comedy shows, karaoke, and Muggle Mondays – a featured wizard movie and drink specials. Butterbeer anyone? METRO: U Street/Cardozo.


Meet Gina Gallucci White

Gina Gallucci White is an award winning freelance writer with articles appearing in such regional publications as Frederick Magazine, The Daily Record, Montgomery Magazine and The Gazette. She...  More About Gina