See Your Favorite Artist at These 10 DC Music Venues

The best of the best for catching live shows

April 23, 2024 6:10 am
musician with guitar, hand on back of head, crown in distance, green light on him
Black Cat
Justin T. Gellerson

Like any major metropolitan area, the D.C. music scene is particularly vibrant. All kinds of major and minor acts roll through town to play shows in some truly amazing and historic venues, so much so that it’s pretty common to have at least one or two can’t-miss concerts a month — if not more frequently than that. With stages full of impactful legacies alongside newfound upstarts, there are a ton of worthy music venues around the city. To help, we whittled down the list to 10 worth visiting and kept it D.C.-specific for clarity’s sake. If you’re looking to see your favorite artist in the area, you’re likely to see them at one of these Dc concert venues. 

Union Stage

The Wharf

Part watering hole and part state-of-the-art venue, Union Stage is a great smaller to mid-size venue that’s well-suited to intimate acts. Whether it’s bands like D.C.’s beloved White Ford Bronco or Dan Bejar of Destroyer fame, acts run the gamut across genres and styles. When you’re done taking in a show, you can sneak upstairs to the pub and grab a slice of pizza or a beer to top off an evening full of wonderful artistry. 

740 Water St SW

band performing, playing woodwind instruments, black and white image
Songbyrd
Songbyrd

Songbyrd

Union Market

The new Songbyrd, which now resides just slightly north of Union Market, is the perfect addition to an already bustling section of town. The 250-person venue is a perfect launch pad for newfound talent — a place for them to fly out of the nest if you want a slightly ham-fisted metaphor. It’s perhaps the best place in D.C. to catch an “I saw them first” kind of artist, having once been the starting place for talents like Khalid, Rapsody, The Beths and dozens more. 

540 Penn St NE

stage, dancefloor, sign, stage lights
DC9
DC9

DC9

U Street

Now, in its 20th year of business, DC9 draws a lot of different types of acts but has earned a really cool reputation as one of the best places in town to catch a DJ show, thanks to its 250-person capacity space. In fact, the venue encourages patrons to check their phones alongside their coats during a set to better live in the moment. The saloon-like downstairs bar is a great spot to post up on a non-show night, too.

1940 9th St NW

The Anthem

The Wharf

We’re not in the business of picking favorites, but if we were, The Anthem would easily make the top of that list. It’s not just the artists who frequent the space — talent I’ve seen since they opened includes Tame Impala, Phoenix, St. Vincent, The Lonely Island, Haim, Carly Rae Jepsen, Jack White, Leon Bridges and Phoebe Bridgers — but the space itself. I once heard the venue described as “a much nicer Terminal 5,” which is to say, it’s a pitch-perfect space for bigger acts to really make a show of who they are. Not to mention it’s a solid spot to grab tasty drinks and delicious food, too.

901 Wharf St SW

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9:30 Club

U Street

Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump once said of 9:30 Club, “It’s got so much character, you wonder if the locals know how lucky they are.” One of the most notable venues ever, it stands out for its balcony, beloved interior (which feels vintage and timeless in equal measure) and its placement as a dedicated fixture not only in D.C.’s music scene but in the city writ large. There’s a strong chance you’ve already been to a show here, but if you haven’t, you’re missing out on an institution that’s arguably just as important as the many other historical places in town.

815 V St NW

The Atlantis

U Street

The original 9:30 was once a venue called The Atlantis before it was 9:30 Club. When the current 9:30 took up its larger space around the corner, the building sat unused for a bit until it remerged as this new venue, modeled to look like the old 9:30 Club but using the name of the former space. Confused? What you really need to know is that the space is meant to be one for new and emerging acts to show off their bonafides. The 450-person room offers a super intimate setting and already feels as timeless and cool as its sibling around the corner.

2047 9th St NW

Capital One Arena

Chinatown

If you’re looking to see the biggest artists on the planet, chances are you’re headed to Capital One Arena. Whether it’s Olivia Rodrigo or Bruce Springsteen, household names new and old hit the Cap to play to a typically sold-out crowd. As a venue, Cap One is certainly well-equipped to handle all the people who typically attend, and there’s not really a bad seat in the house — even the 400 level provides some good views for what’s bound to be a more than memorable show. 

601 F St NW

Kennedy Center

Georgetown

The Kennedy Center’s prestige and acclaim around the country is legendary and makes it the most iconic stage on this list, second only to 9:30 Club. Between the Concert Hall, Opera House and Eisenhower Theater, the Center provides a near palatial space to experience artistry at every level. It’s a can’t-miss for anyone, and locals and visitors alike should make it a point to visit.

2700 F St NW

bartender pouring drink, black and white image,
Black Cat
Black Cat

Black Cat

14th Street

Black Cat was originally established as an indie rock space, thanks to backing from Gray Matter drummer Dante Ferrando and some friends (including Dave Grohl), before becoming a bonafide for metal, punk and DJ/dance shows. Here, it’s not uncommon to find up-and-coming acts playing right before they explode or see established bands playing there for a more personal experience. To wit: I saw Phoebe Bridgers play there alongside Conor Oberst for Better Oblivion Community Center, and Frightened Rabbit played one of their last shows ever as part of a 10th anniversary tour for Midnight Organ Fight. 

1811 14th St NW

Echostage

Langdon

While the artists who frequently play Echostage aren’t my cup of tea (I’m simply too old and washed up to attend EDM shows), it is perhaps the imminent space in town for EDM and dance music. The second biggest venue in town with a capacity for roughly 3,000 patrons, the massive 30,000 square foot space includes all the tech to bring bleeding-edge visuals to life. While EDM is the focus of Echostage, there are bookings every now and again that will surprise locals, like when Lorde and Cardi B performed in the space. 

2135 Queens Chapel Rd NE

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