For some odd reason DC is never considered a music city. This title to cities like NYC, Nashville, and Austin despite The District’s undeniable music pedigree. As home to greats like Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Bad Brains, and Chuck Brown and musical genres Go-Go, Moombathon, and Hardcore Punk it’s blasphemy to say DC hasn’t changed the landscape of popular music.
One thing DC doesn’t lose out on, however, is our concert scene. The District is an absolute hotbed for live music. The biggest issue is knowing which of the dozens of venues are worth checking out. Below, we have graded 14 of the DMV’s top venues and given a quick rundown of each. Come feel that feeling you forgot at one of the DMV’s premier live music venues.
The 930 Club: A+
- This is DC’s favorite music venue. Named after its original address of 930 F st, this establishment has seen it all. From The Red Hot Chili Peppers to Schoolboy Q playing at 930 is a right of passage if you’re gonna’ make it in the biz. See old favorites and emerging artists all at one of the Nation’s top clubs. A must hit spot while in DC.
The Anthem: A+
- This is the rising star of DC’s music scene. Owned by IMP (like the 930 club) The Anthem is shooting to become the world’s best venue of its size. And all signs show they are doing it right. Holding between 2-5K concertgoers depending on the show, they know how to keep a show intimate while constantly bringing in the biggest names.
Echostage: B+ / B
- Echostage has been the District’s number one spot for electronic music for a while. With that being said, it’s just your normal large EDM venue. Sticky dance floors jam-packed with people raving all night. How much you like this venue directly correlates to how much you like the EDM scene.
- If you take out the 2nd-floor stage DC9 is your typical U st bar. Add in that stage and DC9 is a go-to for when we’re jonesing for some live music. The only knock is their schedule of up and coming acts can be hit or miss depending on your tastes Pro-Tip: check out the rooftop if the weather permits.
- Nestled away on H St, this venue reminds us a lot of DC9. Newer artists, cheap shows, great rooftop for chillin’. With tons of free DJ nights (21+) and lots of ‘full shows’ (18+) we recommend checking the schedule ahead of time. Pick a night to check out H St and make sure to visit this rockin’ hotel.
Gypsy Sally’s: A-
- If you consider yourself part of DC’s Jamily (that’s Jam-Family) then this is the venue for you. Gypsy’s has a little something for everyone hosting both all ages and 21+ shows. You can see original acts and many a cover band at this intimate Georgetown bar venue. Surrender to the flow as you boogie on throughout the night to DC’s grooviest live acts.
- This DC institution is the original home for Funk, R&B, and Hip-Hop in the District. Since opening in 1910 The Howard Theater has been through it all. Even as a historical landmark, the Howard Theater is still putting on great shows like Parliament Funkadelic or Method Man & Redman.
- This U st basement boasting the best sound system in all of DC gets rockin’ every weekend. Mainly specializing in Hip Hop and Electronic, we’d choose U Hall over Echostage any day. It’s a much more intimate venue (500 people instead of 3,000) giving shows a whole new feel. And the two bars keep the fun flowing all night.
Union Stage: INC
- Located down at the Wharf this new venue is pretty intriguing. They are in a great location and get some great acts (Spafford and Dizzy Wright to name a few), but not too many big names. This sister bar to Vienna’s Jammin Java has unreal potential on paper, but we have to experience it before giving a full endorsement, hence the INC.
- Do you like American music? This newbie to DC’s scene is down-home Americana to the core. The venue is purely focused on all types of American Music. While the names aren’t the biggest, you’re never more than 25ft from the music. Come here to relax, enjoy great tunes, and make it a night by eating some of their renown American cuisine.
The Fillmore: A- / B+
- Located in Silver Spring this is DC’s number one venue for current Hip-Hop. This month alone A$AP Ferg, Jeezy, Big KRIT, and Remy Ma have shows here. The open floor is great for gettin’ down, but it’ll be packed during a big show. Bonus points are earned for being metro accessible as it’s located just a ½ mile from the Silver Spring red line stop.
- A stone’s throw from The District, MPP is the DMV’s best outdoor venue. You’ll feel like you’re in Narnia as the amphitheater is hidden in 40 acres of preserved park land. MPP boasts a sloping lawn and a covered pavilion accommodating a wide range of ticket prices. Make sure to get here early and check out the lot scene. There normally are tailgaters or a makeshift shakedown street depending on the show.
The State Theater: B/B-
- While it’s not a venue worth going to for venue sake they have been known to get some cool shows (SOJA and Wu-Tang are examples). The layout is a small upstairs with a lower level that hosts most of the action. Its location makes it hard to get to without a car. The 850 person size does, however, allow for a great experience if you like the band playing.
- Wolftrap is the DMV’s 2nd best outdoor venue. Considerably smaller than MPP at 7,000 seats, what Wolftrap lacks in size it more than makes up for with their BYOB policy (for lawn seats only). Open during the summer months, Wolftrap has an eclectic schedule ranging from hip-hop, to folk, to classical. Major key, make sure to have a DD for your show since it’s a bit of a haul and cops like to watch people leaving.