Washington D.C.’s general vibe is crisp, clean and dare I say preppy.
That’s certainly to be expected, given that the city is nestled among madras plaid havens Virginia and Maryland and the home to a whole lot of politicians and lobbyists. But there is a Brooklyn or a Portland looming within the District’s roughly 68 square miles. Not so much in terms of pizza slices or vegan chow, although D,C, has great options in that regard. The vibe to which I’m referring is on the indie rock wavelength.
You pretty likely won’t find the next Fleet Foxes (or even the Fleet Fauxes) busking in the Metro or the next Class Actress serving up your latte. But you do stand a chance of catching them at either of the city’s two main rock venues: The Black Cat and the Nightclub 9:30. Both located near U Street, they are well situated just near the neighborhood’s fine eating and vintage shopping.
The Black Cat was founded in 1993. In the intervening 18 years, among the first acts to play the venue were Stereolab, The Fall and Morphine. It moved to its current address at 1811 14th Street in 2001. Interspersed with the bigger-name alternative acts are blues and jazz acts—fitting given DC’s musical history—as well as DJ dance sets offering a set list venturing beyond the standard top-40 “boom-shuck-shuck” fare. The Black Cat’s “Mainstage” has a capacity of 700; the smaller venue for more up-and-coming acts caps out at 200. There is also a cover-free front lounge, “Red Room,” to relax with a drink before or in absence of a show. At the Food for Thought section of the venue, munch on mostly lacto-ovo-vegetarian fare, as well as some vegan and meat offerings. The nearest Metro stop to The Black Cat is the U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo stop on the Green and Yellow Lines.
A longer-timer on the scene is Nightclub 9:30, also commonly known by its former name Club 9:30. Soon after its opening in 1980, it was hosting some of the key punk and New Wave bands of the day, including X, The Bangles, Marshall Crenshaw, The Go-Go’s and Betty—one of whose members was a bartender. By the mid-80s, the venue, first named for its original address 930 F Street NW, had evolved into a hardcore punk venue and was a nexus for indie punk label Dischord Records, it too based out of DC and the recording home of such local acts as Fugazi and Government Issue. The original 9:30 Club moved in 1996 to its current location, 815 V Street NW. It's been named four times “Nightclub of the Year” by concert industry publication Pollstar. The venue has a capacity of 1200.
How’s that for local spin?