DC JazzFest is back this weekend for its 19th year. The celebration, which kicked off earlier this week and runs through Sunday, draws local, national, and international performers to stages scattered throughout the city. Where else can you find a middle school jazz ensemble playing a block away from a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter?
The main event is happening Saturday and Sunday at Southwest DC’s Wharf, where there are both ticketed and free events. There, three jazz bands compete Saturday afternoon to become the winner of the international competition, the DCJazzPrix. Pets and children are welcome.
Although you don’t need a ticket to walk around the Wharf, tickets are needed for the shows on the piers, which are sold out. But you can watch from afar. Or, you can get two-day, all access VIP passes for $600+, which will get you into all shows on the piers and Union Stage, as well as an air-conditioned VIP Jazz Club with complimentary food and drinks.
Here’s what else you need to know:
Friday, September 1
When: Noon to 8 PM
Where: The event starts at Big Jazz Cafe (1234 Good Hope Rd., SE)
Experience jazz with a hip hop twist. Six different venues around Anacostia—including Busboys & Poets and the Anacostia Arts Center—will host performances throughout the day. Local artists include the Brass-A-Holics, the JoGo Project, Joe Falero Band, Yusha Assad, The Experience Band & Show, and The Lexi T Experience. Grab a bite at the Bigg Jazz Café’s new seafood market.
When: 8 to 10 PM
Where: The Anthem (901 Wharf St., SW)
Cost: Tickets from $68
Gregory Porter—two time Grammy winner for Best Jazz Album—is perhaps the biggest name to come to this year’s JazzFest. DC performers the String Queens will open.
When: 6 to 7:30 PM
Where: Union Stage (740 Water St., SW)
Cost: Tickets from $25
A DC native and literal doctor of jazz (she holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from George Washington), Leigh Pilzer and her saxophone are well-known on the local jazz circuit.
Currently sold out: The Landon Paddock Group at Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.
Saturday, September 2
When: Noon to 10 PM
Where: The Wharf (1001 Seventh St., SW)
Cost: Free to watch from Wharf Street, but shows on the piers (and the kid-friendly DC Jazz Bops) are sold out.
The main event! Saturday’s shows will feature a roster of jazz artists across the four stages. There are still tickets available for some performances at Union Stage, and on Pearl Street Stage you’ll find free performances from local youth musicians. If you need a break from listening to music, you can talk about music at the free Meet the Artist Tent on Recreation Pier, where the weekend’s performers will hold court, giving lectures, and doing meet and greets (free, but you’ll need to register online).
When: 2 to 4 PM
Where: Union Stage (740 Water St., SW)
Cost: $20 to $40
Who doesn’t love a good battle of the bands? Three acts—the finalists of the international DCJazzPrix competition—will face off for jazz glory. The Jury will consider audience reaction when selecting a champion, so let your voice be heard!
Sunday, September 3
Second verse, same as the first. Sunday’s performances and events run from noon to 10 PM. Tickets for the District Pier and Transit Pier shows are sold out, but you can still watch from Wharf Street. And the Meet the Artist Tent will feature conversations with performers like Samara Joy, who won the 2023 Grammy for best new artist, and Dave Holland, who has been on the jazz scene for more than five decades.
GETTING TO THE WHARF
Take the Metro:
Grab a train to the Waterfront station, which services the green line, and the festival is a ten minute stroll away.
Hop on a train to L’Enfant Plaza, which services the orange, silver, yellow, blue, and green lines. Exit the station on the Seventh Street and Maryland Avenue side, and a Free Shuttle will come every 10 minutes to bring jazzheads to the wharf. You can track it live here. Or, the walk to the festival is 12 minutes
Find a Bike Share:
Zip over on one of Capital Bikeshare’s new electric bikes, and you can park them at three nearby biking docks:
- Seventh St. and Maine Ave., SW
- Ninth St. and Maine Ave., SW
- Water St. and Maine Ave., SW
Parking at the Wharf, even with its underground garages, is notoriously difficult. This website gives live updates about capacity at three Wharf garages: Garage 1 (700 Water St., SW); Garage 2 (21 Parker Row, SW; and Garage 3 (602 Water St., SW). Weekend rates for those garages are $10 for one hour, $18 for two hours, $25 for three hours, and $45 for over four hours.
There are a number of public bathrooms throughout around the Wharf:.
- Fish Market area, near Rappahannock Oyster Bar
- Jetty Terminal Building on Transit Pier, below Cantina Bambina (wheelchair accessible)
- 800 Water Street SW, near e-Tea (wheelchair accessible)
- Wharf Public Restrooms at 670 Water Street SW
- Market Pier floating restrooms, available to boaters using Market Docks
FOOD AND DRINK
The Wharf has several restaurants, from the swank Del Mar to the ultra-casual Shake Shack, and many have outdoor seating. Grab a deckside rum and Coke at TikiTNT, or for those with tickets to the shows on the piers, look for stands at the Transit and District Piers that will serve beer, wine, and spirits, with proceeds going toward DC JazzFest programs.