Long live rock, I need it every night

Monday, June 01, 2009

Let's Discuss: DC Music Venues

I'm not going to lie. Austin is better than DC when it comes to live music. That doesn't mean I don't miss going out in the District. Recently I was thinking about my favorite places in DC for live music. Here's my best and worst lists. Let me know if you agree or disagree.

The Best

5. Comet Ping-Ping - I've never stepped foot in this place (I live in Austin after all). However, it has all of my favorite things: pizza, cheap beer, indie rock, and ping-pong. It may jump up to number one if I actually see a show there.

4. Galaxy Hut - Okay, I'll admit it's not really a great music venue. It is great in every other sense of the word so it goes on the list.

3. Black Cat - Pluses: The Red Room, the pear shaped Asian worker who tells kids to "Go back to Virginia!" when kicking them out. Minuses: the gas The Red Room Ale gives me and their crappy sound system.

2. Rock & Roll Hotel - squeaked ahead of The Black Cat only because it's always so easy to get close to the stage.

1. 9:30 Club - great sound and sight lines, the people are nice, and the shows are always well run. Sure, it's not everyone's favorite place but it's the best DC has to offer.

The Worst

3. Sixth and I Synagogue - Sorry, no beer will land you on this list every time. You might disagree if you're not too much of a pussy to sip whiskey from a flask (like me). Or you could point out it's superior acoustics and say it's not about the booze. Whatever, nerd.

2. Jammin Java - Again, no beer. Plus it's way out in the 'burbs and it's name is Jammin Java. Horrible.

1. Nissan Pavillion - if you've ever been there, you understand. They should really let everyone who survived the Radiohead show last year burn that fucker to the ground, riot-style.

Others to consider:

- Fort Reno - just missed my Best list. Lots of good memories here (Fugazi, Dismemberment Plan, Q And Not U, etc).

- Wolf Trap - not bad if you enjoy wine, cheese, and The Gyspy Kings. Personally, I don't.

- DC9 - the home of Rock Club's first official show. I haven't seen a show there in the three years since then.

- The Red and the Black - I always enjoyed the shows there, I just didn't see that many.

- Velvet Lounge - I was down on this place but it's really not bad. They do a good job of booking decent bands.

- Birchmere - I haven't been there but as I get older places with seating and a decent menu have more and more appeal.

- Also: Iota, The Wonderland Ballroom, Jaxx, Merriweather Post, State Theatre


sacklunch said...

Well, I have to disagree a bit here. While I liked the RNR Hotel when it first opened, it has definitely fallen out of favor. The sound is not that great, the sight lines suck if you are anywhere near the back,it is usually hot as fuck in there, and it is out in the boondocks. I do like the upstairs area, but that doesn't really count as a music venue. Also, too many "Drunken Jenga" nights and DJ shit. The Black Cat (both main and backstage) is way better.

Also, our experience at Jaxx was top-notch and DC9 has moved up on the list IMHO. I like the intimacy of DC9, seeing how the "stage" is like 6 inches of the ground.

hemisphire said...

I don't when the last time you were at Jammin Java, but it's had a liquor license for a couple years now - even a couple beers on tap. Sure it's out in the burbs, but so am I.

And as for Wolf Trap, I'll be lugging a case of beer out to see Wilco next month for a nice outdoor show.

Um - you're kidding about the Birchmere and a decent menu, right? We have a new thing about going to get a seating ticket, then going out to eat somewhere nearby and coming back in time to get called, then just order pitchers of beer until the show starts.

Hope to see the best and worst of Austin soon - the wife and I are going to the ACL fest for the first time this year...

Jumbo Slice said...

Hemi - It's been a long time since I've been to JJ. Wilco at Wolf Trap sounds pretty nice. Listing the top Austin venues would be a 10 part series. EVERYPLACE here is set up to host live music.

Sack - I think R&R Hotel's decline started just as I moved away. I've heard from other people that the novelty has worn off and it's not as good as it first seemed.

I probably should've listed the Black Cat Main Stage and Backstage separately. I always liked the backstage especially when I was able to stand on the bench with my back to the wall.

Jimbromski said...

Agree 100% w Sack. BC in front of RNRH and DC9 is actually solid. Also, you're an anti-semite for not ranking 6th & I higher.

Unknown said...

here's the definitive list:

1) black cat. hands down. just the way it is.

2) comet. now that they have their own PA -- and a damn good one -- this place is unstoppable. also, pretty much every show they book is good. quality control is crucial.

3) 9:30 club. everything's too expensive and it feels too sterile, but at the same time we're very spoiled to have it.

4) velvet. actually starting earlier these days and it's the only place that feels like an out-of-control rock club, which is a big plus.

5) iota. ok, this is a homer pick since it's right near my place. i wish they had more stuff i wanted to see.

*** -- i can't really rank g-hut since it only has very small shows twice a week. it gets an honorable mention 1A ranking though.

Steve said...

Funny how different our lists are, though I guess it depends on exact criteria. If I had to list venues based solely on how much I look forward to seeing bands at each venue, my best would be:

1. Black Cat backstage
2. RnR Hotel
3. DC9
4. Black Cat mainstage
5. Iota

I love Fort Reno but it doesn't make the list because it's not a "true" venue. I also leave off the 9:30 Club, because while it may technically be the best room in DC, I really dislike going there.

Oh, and Birchmere food is overpriced garbage.

Jumbo Slice said...

I trashed Velvet Lounge when we were interviewed by The Washingtonian. Seems things have turned around with the new owners. I'm a fan of earlier start times. It's no fun when the headliner begins at 12:30 on a Tuesday or Wednesday night.

I'll be in DC in August and a trip to Comet is a must. I don't even care who is playing.

Anonymous said...

1) black cat backstage
2) black cat mainstage
3) Velvet Lounge
4) Iota
5) I do look forward to shows at the galaxy hut

not a big fan of RnR or DC9 or anything that has a capacity over 700

sacklunch said...

Re: David

Really? Iota over DC9? Iota is pretty mediocre regardless of who is playing there. There is that weird column in the middle of the room (kind of reminds me of the old 930 Club though) and it is often very, very chatty. Also, too many singer-songwriter/roots rock bands play there. Pluses include a nice back deck where I can smoke.

Have to agree about the Black Cat. Hands down the best atmosphere anywhere in DC. However, I wish their draft beer didn't give a serious case of the trots.

ETA: Sometimes Jumboslice likes to order a "Black Cat" instead of a "Red Room Ale". That always amuses me.

Unknown said...

Yes, but I can walk to Iota and stop at Galaxy Hut on my way back and then stumble home drunk. I have to drive to DC9 and look for parking on that sketchy block. Logistics mean a lot to me.

sacklunch said...

Good point. That is the very reason we don't head to the RNR Hotel very often these days. It is a logistical nightmare and w/o Potsy's apartment nearby, well, there is no way to properly "prepare" for a show.

I still think IOTA is kinda lame though. That being said, Viva Voce is playing there this Friday, so I may try and head over.