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It's not all about well choreographed politics in this town – check out these underground destinations for live music in Washington to see where the real movers and shakers hang out. Just hop on a flight to Washington D.C. to discover the city's best music haunts.
U Street Music Hall
If you’re looking for international beats, a little Latin flavour, and an intimate club with big live music potential, then Subway can bring you there. The sandwich chain, which sits above this tucked away and often-cover-free Brazilian hotspot, marks the entrance to one of D.C.’s most happening haunts. Grab one of their much-touted caipirinhas and hit the dancefloor to pounding samba, bossa nova, reggae, calypso, afro-funk, salsa and even a Latin orchestra on Friday nights. If you missed a Millennium Stage Latin concert at the Kennedy Center, odds are the band will be putting on a second show here during the week.
This candlelit supper club, featuring authentic N’awlins cuisine named after former performers, is located (appropriately down a Georgetown alley) in an 18th-century carriage house. As a classic jazz ‘listening club”, the twice nightly shows – with an occasional late night set on weekends – are the main focus. The stage here has played host to many jazz greats, from Dizzy Gillespie to Wynton Marsalis, who told the Washington Post: “The ambience is one of the best of any jazz club in the world."
Fans of music from punk to hip hop can catch nightly concerts at this multi-level club, with the all-ages shows offering standing room only. On-site food is served throughout the opening act and is largely organic and vegan/vegetarian friendly. The four bars make it blissfully easy to grab a quick drink without missing out on the show whilst waiting in line at a busy bar.
Eighteenth Street Lounge
With four distinct vintage rooms, (The Main Room, The Gold Room, The Jazz Bar and an outdoor terrace), this residential-style club was set up 16 years ago by Farid (Ali) Nouri and Eric Hilton, two D.C. DJs craving creative control to throw parties their own way. Live bands take the stage every Tuesday through Saturday, with great happy hour prices ($5/£3.20 drinks, $20/£12.50 bottles of wine) allowing music lovers of all budgets to enjoy the quirky vibe of the Victorian mansion turned hotspot.
Header photo: U Street Music Hall © Ian Corey
Written by Sascha Zuger
Have you been to any of our top live music spots in D.C.? Where do you go to see local bands in the city? Share your tips below.
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About the author: SaschaZugerSascha Zuger
Sascha Zuger is the author of several Moon Handbook and Spotlight guidebooks. Her work has been seen in National Geographic Traveler, The Washington Post, The LA Times, Food Network Magazine, Parenting, SELF, Gourmet, WIRED, and a number of other national magazines. She also writes novels for teens under pseudonym, Aimee Ferris.