News & Politics

Where to Hear Live Music

With so many area clubs and concert halls, you can always find someone who’s playing your song.

Photograph of Broken Social Scene by Norman Wong.

There are so many places in the area to hear live music that you could see a different act every night of the month and not hit the same club or concert hall twice. Here are some favorite Washington music venues—and highlights of their season—where you can be sure the acoustics will be good, the acts will be first-rate, and the joint will be jumpin’.


Don’t miss:Vienna’s Luke Brindley Band, a local favorite, shares the stage with singer/songwriter Ari Hest at the Barns at Wolf Trap November 20. 1635 Trap Rd., Vienna; 703-255-1900;

Other venues for rockers:

9:30 Club: Top-of-the-line acoustics and a nightly slate of established and up-and-coming acts make 9:30 one of DC’s busiest venues. The acclaimed Chicago band Umphrey’s McGee sets up shop November 21 and 22 with its energetic progressive rock. 815 V St., NW; 202-265-0930;

Rock and Roll Hotel: This H Street Corridor staple delivers music with a pitch-perfect selection of promising young talent, including Justin Jones & the Driving Rain October 16, Ben Kweller October 21, and Nicole Atkins & the Sea November 7. 1353 H St., NE; 202-388-7625;

State Theatre: There’s no bad seat in this former movie theater, which features a mix of rock, reggae, and top-tier cover bands. Try out Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene’s multiple-guitar attack October 22. 220 N. Washington St., Falls Church; 703-237-0300;

DAR Constitution Hall: Rock stars in the making Kings of Leon are worth the trip November 10. 1776 D St., NW; 202-628-1776;


Don’t miss: The Washington National Opera brings Wagner’s Siegfried to the Kennedy Center Opera House May 2, 5, 9, 14, and 17. Featuring Pär Lindskog as the lead, the epic 4½-hour experience should be one of this season’s highlights. 202-467-4600;

Other venues for opera buffs:

La Maison Française: Opera Lafayette’s new season debuts November 2 at the French Embassy with “Armida Abbandonata: Cantatas and Other Chamber Works by Handel and Haydn.” The embassy’s eight acres have become a cultural hub, with a variety of jazz, classical, and contemporary performances. 4101 Reservoir Rd., NW; 202-546-9332 (Opera Lafayette);

Lisner Auditorium: George Washington University hosts the Washington Concert Opera this season, beginning with Donizetti’s Maria Padilla November 9. 730 21st St., NW; 202-994-6800;


Don’t miss: The National Symphony Orchestra’s principal conductor, Iván Fischer, leads a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 October 16 through 18, featuring mezzo-soprano Birgit Remmert, the University of Maryland Concert Choir, and the Children’s Chorus of Washington at the Kennedy Center. 202-467-4600;

Other venues for classical fans:

National Gallery of Art, West Building courtyard: The museum’s free concert series schedules a good lineup of trios, quartets, and ensembles. Pianist Till Fellner plays Beethoven’s Sonata Cycle December 7. Sixth St. and Constitution Ave., NW; 202-842-6941;

Historic Dumbarton Church: The Dumbarton Concerts series fills this Georgetown church (also known as Dumbarton United Methodist) with chamber music by candlelight. The young ensemble Antares explores selections from Schumann, Beethoven, and Bruckner in “The Musical Brilliance of Unquiet Minds” November 8. 3133 Dumbarton St., NW; 202-965-2000;

Phillips Collection: The 67-year-old Sunday Concert Series takes place October through May. Belgrade’s promising young pianist Mirjana Rajic stops by October 19. 1600 21st St., NW; 202-387-2151;

George Mason University Center for the Arts: This venue has become a cornerstone of Northern Virginia’s arts scene. Russia’s Kirov Orchestra, with its 300-year-old résumé, visits November 14. Rt. 123 and Braddock Rd., Fairfax; 703-993-8888;

Music Center at Strathmore: Whether hosting a folk star (Arlo Guthrie November 7), dance group (Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana November 30), or classical orchestra, this is a great hall for families. Kids ages 7 to 17 are admitted free to performances of the National Philharmonic—in residence at Strathmore—including its production of Handel’s Messiah December 6 and 7. 5301 Tuckerman La., North Bethesda; 301-581-5100;


Don’t miss: The National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Concert, with special guest Christian McBride, comes to the Lincoln Theatre October 4 as part of the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. 1215 U St., NW; 202-328-6000;

Other haunts for jazz:

Blues Alley: Georgetown’s happening jazz and supper club is always filled with talent. Genre-bending saxophonist David Sanborn brings his repertoire to the stage October 8 through 12. 1073 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-337-4141;

Twins Jazz: This small U Street venue is one of the best in town. Virtuoso sax player Stan Killian and his quartet play October 8 and 29. 1344 U St., NW; 202-234-0072;

Bohemian Caverns: Three stories tall and one cavern deep, this historically rich venue has spacious digs. Grammy-nominated pianist Jacky Terrasson plays a handful of shows October 10 and 11. 2001 11th St., NW; 202-299-0800;

HR-57: Dedicated to preserving America’s original art form, HR-57 is a home to veteran and aspiring jazz musicians. Jam sessions are every Wednesday and Thursday at 8:30 and Sunday at 7, going late into the evening. 1610 14th St., NW; 202-667-3700;

Mandarin Oriental: This elegant hotel hosts Washington’s top artists every month, with Brazilian, Latin, and contemporary music Thursday night and top jazz vocalists Friday and Saturday. Trio Balança—a group blending Brazilian music, pop, and American jazz—is a frequent visitor. 1330 Maryland Ave., SW; 202-554-8588;


Don’t miss: The Nighthawks, a legendary local bar band, bring their brand of blues/rock to Jammin’ Java, one of the area’s best venues, November 7. 227 Maple Ave. E., Vienna; 703-225-1566;

Other places to hear the blues:

Bangkok Blues: Named in honor of the king of Thailand’s love of the blues, this Thai restaurant and bar boasts music every night but Monday. Baltimore’s rollicking Idle Americans play there often, including September 26; October 1, 3, and 24; November 12, 14, and 21; and December 10. 926 W. Broad St., Falls Church; 703-534-0095;

Zoo Bar Café: This low-key joint looks to fill passers-by with beer, burgers, and blues. Reggie Wayne Morris brings his blues and funk November 7. 3000 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-232-4225;

Surf Club Live: Blues jams are standard fare at this legendary location. Weekend live music is often supplemented with enthusiastic dancing and karaoke. 4711 Kenilworth Ave., Hyattsville; 301-927-6310;

Westminster Presbyterian Church: After the wild success of Friday Jazz Night, this small, progressive church has upped the ante with Blue Monday Blues. BG & the Mojo Hands play October 27. 400 I St., SW; 202-484-7700;


Don’t miss: Veteran folk/pop singer/songwriter Dar Williams takes the stage at the Birchmere November 7 and 8. 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-549-7500;

For more folk and country:

BlackRock Center for the Arts: Both audiences and artists remark on this center’s superb acoustics and sightlines. Its Third Thursday Coffeehouse Series features a range of folk and country acts including the funky Laura Love November 20. 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown; 301-528-2260;

Madam’s Organ: Covered wall-to-wall with stuffed prey, this classic dive showcases good smaller bands in the heart of Adams Morgan. Bob Perilla’s Big Hillbilly Bluegrass plays every Wednesday. 2461 18th St., NW; 202-667-5370;

JV’s Restaurant: This restaurant and music venue is one of the few dedicated to honky-tonk acts. 6666 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church; 703-241-9504;

Workhouse Arts Center: The Lorton Arts Foundation’s newly opened arts center hosts everything from jazz and classical to bluegrass. The Celtibillies bring their Celtic and Appalachain roots to the stage November 7. 9601 Ox Road, Lorton; 703-495-0001;


Don’t miss: Political punk rockers Against Me! and Ted Leo & The Pharmacists play October 8 at the Black Cat, the U Street neighborhood’s alternative to the jazz scene, co-owned by Foo Fighter Dave Grohl. 1811 14th St., NW; 202-667-4490;

Other venues for indie acts:

Iota Club and Café: Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis at this small, laid-back club. On October 4, it hosts 19-year-old Sonya Kitchell, backed by rock trio the Slip. 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-522-8340;

DC9: Beat-happy DJs and up-and-coming acts fill the bar and dance floor at this local favorite. Tel Aviv garage-rock trio Monotonix will do its best to blow out the speakers October 16. 1940 Ninth St., NW; 202-483-5000;

Wonderland Ballroom: This neighborhood bar has DC’s best jukebox and a great beer selection. DJs control the upstairs with a mix of popular and obscure tracks. 1101 Kenyon St., NW; 202-232-5263;

Velvet Lounge: This tiny U Street club, around the corner from the 9:30 Club, is one of the best places to catch rising local acts. Check out Little Pink November 8 and Celtic harpist Lily Neill December 13. 915 U St., NW; 202-462-3213;


Don’t miss: Local all-female a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock celebrates its 35th anniversary with a concert October 24 at the Warner Theatre, sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society. 513 13th St., NW; 202-785-9727 (WPAS);

Other venues for gospel or spiritual music:

Grace Episcopal Church: The concert series at this Episcopal church in The Plains features a variety of musical groups, from the Cantate Chamber Singers, one of Washington’s best chamber choruses (October 19), to the WPAS Children of the Gospel Choir, which performs a family holiday concert January 4. 6507 Main St., The Plains; 540-253-5177;

Artmosphere Café: Every Sunday, this new Mount Rainier coffee shop and cafe hosts a gospel brunch. Owned by the drummer of the Proverbs, a local reggae band, the cafe’s dedication to music and affordable prices make it worth the stop. 3311 Rhode Island Ave., Mount Rainier; 301-927-2233;

Cabaret/Musical Theater

Don’t miss: Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1971 hit, Jesus Christ Superstar comes to the Warner Theatre March 17 through 22. Ted Neely returns in the title role with Corey Glover, lead singer of the rock band Living Colour, as Judas. 513 13th St., NW; 202-783-4000;

Other stages for show tunes:

Kennedy Center Terrace Theater: “Spotlight,” the cabaret series curated by Broadway legend Barbara Cook featuring top musical-theater stars, continues October 3 and 4 with Tony Award winner Betty Buckley. 202-467-4600;

Signature Theatre: Signature brings back its holiday cabaret hit, December Divas, December 17 through 20. March 18 through 21, LaChiusa’s Ladies features songs by composer Michael John LaChiusa written for the dynamic women of musical theater. 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington; 703-820-9771;

MetroStage: After hit shows in which he played Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole, Jimi Ray Malary returns November 20 through December 21 in Isn’t It Romantic? Under the musical direction of William Knowles, the tribute features music by George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Rodgers and Hart. 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria; 703-548-9044;

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