By Esther Hidalgo and Charlotte Sturm, Host Committee Members
Bored on a weeknight while in DC? Hungering for some bold guitar riffs or pulsing beats? Why not check out one of the District’s fabulous live music venues. Here is just a sampling to choose from, offering jazz, DJ nights, and a broad spectrum of rock options.
Jojo Restaurant and Bar is located a few steps down from the sidewalk at 1518 U St NW. This elegant, two-level restaurant and bar offers southern cuisine and live “straight ahead” jazz almost every night of the week. The dark mahogany bar, attentive service, and laid back clientele evoke an upscale, yet unpretentious vibe. We advise making reservations if you wish to take in the music whilst dining, as the lower level can get a little cramped. Or simply try arriving before 9pm on a weeknight to claim a spot at the bar (no guarantees though). Check their website for times and details at https://jojodc.com/entertainment/.
Black Cat has long been a preferred venue for local and national indie bands and musicians. Located at 1811 14th St NW, Black Cat has two stages and one bar/lounge area, and a cafe. The Main Stage, which is flanked by bars, is located on the 2nd floor. The smaller, more intimate Back Stage, which features smaller events, DJ nights, and the occasional film screening, is located at the back of the Red Room Bar, which also a few booths for lounging, a billiard table, pinball machines, and a well-curated jukebox which plays everything from the Pixies to classic Johnny Cash. The venue is cash only and wheelchair accessible. If you’re feeling peckish, you not need to leave; just turn left at the entryway into Food for Thought Cafe (http://www.blackcatdc.com/food-for-thought.html). Their vegan and vegetarian-friendly menu offers such dishes as their renowned vegan nachos, as well as burgers and other fare. During SAA week, there’s a show every night except Monday. Wednesday, August 15 is a special event, The Archives of Place. Sponsored by AV Preserve, this free event may feature a DJ or two, live music, and a screening of archival audio and visual materials from collections across the country.
9:30 Club is a longstanding nightclub and concert venue. Although currently located in the U Street Corridor at 815 V Street NW, the club’s name is a reference to its original location at 930 F Street. Check out their Wikipedia entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9:30_Club to learn more about the club’s extensive history, concert highlights, and trivia. The stage at the current location is flanked by upper level balconies with bench seating. The club also has reserved ADA seating in the upper center level, right across from the stage; those needing accommodations are encouraged to email in advance. There are two bars on the main floor and two bars on the balcony level, including an espresso bar serving the famous 9:30 cupcakes. You can easily refresh yourself during even the most packed shows by reaching for the self-serve pitchers of water and cups on the bar. Craving a more intimate venue? Then head down stairs to Backbar, which hosts DJs, dance parties, and smaller musical acts. During SAA week, there are three shows scheduled at the 9:30 Club, on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The DC Music Rocks Festival on Saturday night showcases 5 local bands, each with a unique sound. Check the schedule for more details, descriptions and video clips of the artists, and any last minutes changes.
A sister-venue to 9:30 Club is Anthem, which opened earlier this year in the newly developed Wharf district in SW DC. The show space is beautiful and spacious, yet still evokes the intimacy of a small stage. General admission seating is available on multiple floors. There are also box seating options, as well as an outdoor smoking lounge. The bars, which are located on each floor, are cash-free, including the espresso bar! It is worth noting that, due to the newness and vastness of the space, Anthem typically books (and sells out) higher profile acts, such as David Byrne and Janelle Monáe, so we suggest purchasing tickets early and online. Additionally, there is no cell service inside. Although free WiFi is available, we have found this to be unreliable and suggest stepping out to the lobby or up to the smoking lounge to locate a signal. There is one show currently scheduled at Anthem during SAA week, on Friday August 17: NEEDTOBREATHE with JOHNNYSWIM and Billy Raffoul. Not sure who these artists are? Not to worry. The Anthem’s website provides extensive details about each act’s musical style, history, and current songs.
Any one of these venues, or the dozens more found throughout the District like Madam’s Organ, the U Street Music Hall, Velvet Lounge, DC9, and Echostage, will offer you a fantastic live music experience that may well be the highlight of your conference week. Don’t miss out!