The DC area has so many great places to see a show that there’s no way to be comprehensive. With that caveat in mind, here are some of our favorites, from historic theaters to outdoor amphitheaters. Covid remains unpredictable, so check the websites before you go.
901 Wharf St., SW
In the five years since it opened with a Foo Fighters show, this luxe venue at the Wharf has quickly become one of the area’s premier places to see a gig, even if it’s not exactly intimate—up to 6,000 fans can pack into it.
Insider tip: “Go to our bar upstairs in the lobby that looks over the marquee for a view of the water and the pier and people-watching,” says general manager Dori Armor. “It’s beautiful.”
Concert we’re excited for: British singer Charli XCX delivers her forward-looking pop tunes August 6.
7719 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda
Originally opened in 1938, the 500-seat space offers much more than its titular genres.
Concert we’re excited for: Go-go legends EU will celebrate frontman Sugar Bear at a birthday bash on July 23.
3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
One of the area’s most revered establishments, it’s known for folk and roots, but you’ll also find jazz, R&B, and lots of other genres. Perhaps you once caught Johnny Cash there? Lucky you.
Concert we’re excited for: John Hiatt & the Goners take the stage July 10 and 11.
1811 14th St., NW
Run by punk-scene mainstay Dante Ferrando, the appealingly gritty space is carrying on the traditions of DC’s underground music history.
Concert we’re excited for: On July 23, local teacher Kim Coletta stops by with her reunited old group, Jawbox—one of DC’s great bands.
1073 Wisconsin Ave., NW
This famed jazz room has been presenting major acts since it opened in 1965.
Concert we’re excited for: The engrossing singer Jean Carne has a four-night run beginning July 7.
601 F St., NW
When big pop stars come to town, this is often where they land: Drake, Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa . . .you get the idea. A fantastic time for you and 20,000 of your pals.
Concert we’re excited for: Want to see Shawn Mendes here on July 27? There’s nothing holdin’ you back.
7750 Capital One Tower Rd., Tysons
This Virginia space opened last year with a show by Josh Groban. It’s been offering name-brand acts—generally from the stodgier end of the spectrum—ever since.
Concert we’re excited for: Country artist Vince Gill performs July 29 and 30.
5037 Connecticut Ave., NW
Pizza, ping-pong, and punk: Why did nobody think of this previously? The room—which books plenty of other genres as well—fits about 150, and things can get sweaty.
Concert we’re excited for: On July 21, Zeta joins Dikembe and Tim Kinsella (Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc) and Jenny Pulse.
1940 Ninth St., NW
A three-level space, it features eclectic music and good burgers. Not feeling the band? Head to the roof bar instead.
Concert we’re excited for: DC rapper Nonchalant—whom you might recall from her 1996 hit “5 O’Clock”—takes the stage July 21.
4500 Patriot Cir., Fairfax
The 10,000-seat venue at George Mason University hosts college basketball games—as well as the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Keith Urban, and Bob Dylan.
Concert we’re excited for: On July 23, El Alfa brings his dembow sound to town.
2135 Queens Chapel Rd., NE
EDM is the genre of choice at this club—the kind of place where David Guetta and Calvin Harris perform while patrons order $375 bottles of Grey Goose. Still cheaper than a trip to Miami.
Concert we’re excited for: Steve Aoki DJs on July 3.
8656 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring
Owned by Live Nation, this centerpiece of downtown Silver Spring is a top spot for well-known pop and rock. It’s also one of the major local venues for national hip-hop artists.
Insider tip: “For the shortest bar line, I’d recommend going upstairs to the balcony bar,” says Laura Cross, who does marketing for the Fillmore. “You can also continue up another floor if you’re looking for a bathroom a little further away from the crowds.”
Concert we’re excited for: Riot grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill, who lived in DC for a while in the early ’90s, return July 11 and 12.
1600 FedEx Way, Landover
The NFL stadium is also the venue for mega-size music stars. Bring binoculars.
Concert we’re excited for: The Weeknd’s 2021 Super Bowl performance was good prep for his concert July 30.
4000 Chesapeake St., NW
Once upon a time, Fugazi and other local legends would play the free summer concert series at Fort Reno Park. These days, the bands tend to be less famous, but good tunes and positive vibes endure.
Concert we’re excited for: This year’s lineup is still TBA.
600 14th St., NW
Once the flagship location of Garfinckel’s department store, the huge space is now home to a Clyde’s Restaurant Group eatery and a downstairs stage.
Concert we’re excited for: July 10 will bring singer/songwriter Nicole Atkins.
620 T St., NW
One of the city’s most historic venues. After a renovation a decade ago, it offers rap, jazz, comedy, and more.
Concert we’re excited for: Backyard Band ring in Independence Day weekend July 2.
227 Maple Ave. E., Vienna
It does offer some bands with an improvisational bent, as the name suggests. There’s also just about every other kind of music you can think of, from metal greats Anvil to a U2 tribute band.
Concert we’re excited for: Ska favorites the Toasters skank into Virginia August 6.
7800 Cellar Door Dr., Bristow
It opened in 1995 (as Nissan Pavilion) with the Village People, and this amphitheater has been a favorite site for outdoor fun ever since.
Concert we’re excited for: The Chicks—still a high-energy trio, now no longer “Dixie”—bring “Goodbye Earl” and all their other classics to the stage July 9.
2700 F St., NW
From jazz to hit musicals to opera, the Kennedy Center offers an astonishing array of riches—along with, of course, the National Symphony Orchestra, now thriving under Gianandrea Noseda. Millennium Stage has free performances, while the new-ish Reach is a welcome addition.
Concert we’re excited for: India.Arie headlines the Black Girls Rock! Fest on June 30 and July 1.
1215 U St., NW
Launched in 1922 as a movie palace, it became one of the key venues of DC’s “Black Broadway,” hosting the likes of Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole. More recently, it has seen gigs from Barack Obama and Kendrick Lamar.
Concert we’re excited for: British singer Yola has September 24 on her calendar for what’s sure to be a rousing performance.
10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia
With its lovely environs and varied programming, this amphitheater is a great place to see music, even—especially!—if you’re watching from a blanket on the lawn. Also check out the Chrysalis at Merriweather Park, a smaller stage on the grounds.
Concert we’re excited for: Maren Morris plays August 4.
5301 Tuckerman Ln., North Bethesda
Glass walls and great acoustics are the most prominent features of this performing-arts hall. Classical sounds, international musicians, and dance performances are some of the regular offerings.
Concert we’re excited for: An August 6 set from Ukrainian foursome Dakhabrakha will have added resonance due to recent events.
1500 S. Capitol St., SE
The home of DC’s baseball team is also the site of some major concerts—past years have seen the likes of Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen step up to the plate. Lady Gaga and Def Leppard are among the future shows.
Concert we’re excited for: Bad Bunny brings his aptly named World’s Hottest Tour on August 23.
815 V St., NW
Its first location—at 930 F Street—was a DC institution, but its current home is a nicer place to take in a show. You can see a piece of the past in the basement, where the original club’s bar now resides.
Concert we’re excited for: Brooklyn noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells return to the venue August 23.
33 Pearl St., SW
The intimate room at the Wharf specializes in rootsy music; the vibe is more Mississippi River than Potomac.
Concert we’re excited for: Singer/songwriter Waylon Payne performs July 27.
1339 H St., NE
Don’t worry, it does have pies, but the tunes are just as much of a draw. You’ll find local and national acts, along with events such as emo karaoke.
Concert we’re excited for: DC punk band Dear Spring, whose most recent video features several of the venues listed here. See them July 21.
2500 Independence Ave., SE
RFK used to host DC’s biggest concerts (U2’s Joshua Tree tour, for example), but with the stadium now shuttered, the action is outside. These days, music festivals such as Broccoli City and Project Glow attract hordes of revelers to the grounds.
Concert we’re excited for: August 20 and 21, the DC World Reggae Festival will feature all sorts of Caribbean music and food, with artists like Third World and Chronixx.
6950 Maple St., NW
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might miss it: The nonprofit arts space is inside a Takoma DC house. The music is as unconventional as the surroundings, with a focus on experimental sounds.
Concert we’re excited for: Atmospheric local composer Heather Stebbins will be in the house July 1.
600 I St., NW
This vintage synagogue offers all sorts of fascinating events. It’s the kind of place where you can hear cosmic saxophonist Kamasi Washington or listen to thought-provoking author Ibram X. Kendi.
Concert we’re excited for: British musician Calum Scott arrives with an armload of soulful pop tunes August 18.
540 Penn St., NE
Formerly in Adams Morgan, it’s now relocated to Union Market, not far from Byrdland Records (owned by the same couple). Cool space, diverse bands, good hot dogs.
Concert we’re excited for: On July 22, the club welcomes genre-mixing artist Shamir.
220 N. Washington St., Falls Church
With its classic neon marquee, the hall has an inviting feel, which extends to the inside space.
Concert we’re excited for: Smithereens frontman Pat DiNizio died in 2017, so on July 9, they’ll feature vocals from Marshall Crenshaw.
101 MGM National Ave., Oxon Hill
Can’t make it to Vegas? This slick concert hall is as close as you can get in our area, in terms of both the flashy facilities and its approach to booking.
Concert we’re excited for: Alicia Keys is there August 5.
740 Water St., SW
Buzzy national acts often play the well-appointed nightclub at the Wharf, owned by the folks behind Jammin’ Java.
Concert we’re excited for: Singer Ethel Cain drops by July 24. Her haunting songs are hard to shake.
513 13th St., NW
Long ago, it featured silent movies and vaudeville acts. Now you’ll find lots of standup comedy (Nick Kroll) and legacy rock acts (Kenny Loggins)—along with some impressively ornate decor.
Concert we’re excited for: Singer/songwriter PJ Morton—you might know him as a member of Maroon 5—appears September 4.
1551 Trap Rd., Vienna
Generations of music fans have flocked to the multiple venues that make up this bastion of chill ambiance and tasteful sounds. It’s the only national park devoted to the performing arts—a place where you can take in an opera or musical, soak up classic artists like Bonnie Raitt, or investigate of-the-moment music such as Japanese Breakfast.
Insider tip: “On the lawn, don’t sit right up front,” says Wolf Trap social-media manager Nessa Ferrell. “Go [back] about ten feet to get the best view of the stage and screens. This also means you get to see some gorgeous sunsets.”
Concert we’re excited for: Indie artists Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, and Julien Baker make up a fantastic triple bill on July 21.
This article appears in the July 2022 issue of Washingtonian.