Where to Play: Metal in DC

Here are the best spots to play and/or find metal in DC.
  1. 9:30 Club: if a band (or package of bands) is big enough, this is the spot to play. 930 is a national level venue. They don't do metal all that often, but in recent memory Darkest Hour, Slayer, In Flames, and Lamb of God all played sold out shows there. The club holds somewhere around 800 people,and they pack them in. Always all ages. Website
  2. The Black Cat: A long time friend of metal and punk, this venerable "cool spot" boasts two stages, an awesome bar, a staff that is musician focused, dressing rooms, private bathroom, a vegan friendly restaurant, and wireless internet. The main stage is upstairs and is over 7000 square feet with two bars and ample space. If your band isn't big enough for that, then the back stage, which holds about 200 people, has rad sound, and an intimate setting, is the spot for you (please note, back stage shows are not available fri & sat in most cases because of dance nights.) Bands get 3 free pitchers of beer, free food for out of towners, and 50% of the door split evenly (though they do work with Labeled acts, so that potentially changes) Always all ages. Website.
  3. Rock and Roll Hotel: This place is the youngest of the clubs that support Metal in the area. If you are too big for black cat back stage, but too small for the main stage, this is a place to play. Decent sound, large room, comfortable rooms upstairs (which they occasionally close for bands.) There are two or three bars, a tiny dressing room/storage room, dingy shower. The downside is that the club is in an "up and coming" area in which break ins and violence still occasionally happen. What makes this location even less desirable is no convenient public transportation. Capacity of about 400 people and the staff are sometimes very cool, sometimes not so much. Bands get 3 free beers and money determined by some strange calculation that I have yet been able to figure out - Usually based on door polling. Always all ages. See the Red and the Black for additional ownership info. Website
  4. The Velvet Lounge: The venerable Velvet lounge is a hole in the wall, in a good way. It's what a dingy small rock club should be. They have always been supportive of up and coming metal acts, with a capacity of about 100, the club is two level row house. Some previous acts to play are Mastadon, Juicifer, and many more. The VL has recently changed ownership, and the new staff seem way friendlier towards bands, and willing to be more flexible. Nice staff and good sound (sometimes). A Location pretty much right across the street from a stop on the DC Metro (subway) makes this club very easy to get to, though parking can be a hassle, so if you are coming from out of town, get there early to find a spot. Bands get 2 free beers and they seem pretty fair with the door money, usually 50% of the door, minus $50 divided by door polling. Usually 21+ but they are flexible. Website
  5. The Red and the Black: I'm really mixed on this place. First and foremost it's in the same neighborhood as the Rock and Roll Hotel, which means it's hard for people to get to, and not all that great a neighborhood (called the Atlas District.) This place is a little smaller than the Velvet Lounge, all distressed wood. At one point they had a cool little patio out back to chill in and smoke (if you don't mind the constant smell of fried fish) but they closed it last Summer and I'm not sure if they reopened it. There is no real sound to speak of, beyond a PA for vocals. Owned by the same people who own the Rock and Roll Hotel, the club staff themselves are usually pretty cool, but the ownership has started to become notorious in the city for some reported mistreatment of bands, aggressive booking behaviors, and apparent lack of interest in the music scene itself, only in the money made. Most of my personal experiences with these people have mostly been good, though, so I can't really speak too much to this. Bands get 2 free beers and door money is split in a mysterious way. 21 plus, no exceptions. Website
  6. DC9: Okay, so I didn't even want to put this club on the list for a few reasons: 1) they so rarely have metal shows 2)They almost never do weekend shows 3) 21 and over only. All that said, this is a fun place to play, with a pretty big room and pretty good sound. Probably twice the size of the Velvet Lounge and just around the corner. They are more interested in Dance nights than rock shows, let alone metal. They are owned by the same people who own R&R Hotel and the Red and the Black. They use the same tricky math when determining band payment, and you usually have to wait until 1 or 2 to get paid. Here's the breakdown for what they seem to care about: 1) Money 2) Alcohol sales. Everything else is secondary. Always 21 + no exceptions. Website
  7. HOUSE SHOWS: Lets be honest here, if you are a band who's been working the grind for any amount of time in the last few years, the coolest shows to play are house shows, and in my opinion the most emotionally gratifying. Sure, there are the built in issues - Dingy basements, small capacity, little pay - but I find the upsides - kids who love music, gracious hosts, crazy energy, a built in place to crash (occasionally) - will out weigh the downsides. The DC area has a few sweet houses that haven't closed yet, and although these places have traditionally done hardcore and punk shows, metal and thrash bands are getting added to bills with increasing frequency. I'm not going to link to the houses, because I don't want to give them any undue external pressure. As with anything else worth the time, it's always better to put the work in. Houses still putting on shows: The Corpse Fortress, The Bervin House, The Girl Cave, Deathstar 2.
  8. Community Centers: There are still a few locations in the DC area that do shows, however they are notorious crazy and difficult to deal with. They are more suitable for jumping on local shows. Your best bet to get on one of these shows is to make friends with a band in the area. The places that do shows are: People's Media Center @ Alfishawy, The Electric Maid, and a few others.
  9. Murky Upstairs: This place is a coffee shop in Arlington VA that occasionally does all ages shows upstairs in what looks like a rec room. I would say it probably holds 60 people or so. I'm not sure if they do Metal shows, but it's worth reaching out. Myspace.
  10. Jaxx: The only reason I mention this shit hole at all is in warning. So many metal bands play here and it pisses me off. This place is so run down and nasty that you may want to shower just by walking in. It is at least 20 miles south of DC. The staff is reportedly crooked, and they frequently overload bills with 5-10 local bands and put the burden of ticket sales on these local bands. They are pretty much pay to play, and if the local bands don't sell, they are supposed to give the club money out of their pockets. The staff is NOT friendly. It may be different for a national band, I don't know. The sound usually is terrible as well. Whenever a band comes through town that I want to see, and it's at Jaxx, I want to punch someone in the face. Play here only as a last resort.
If you are in a touring band and want to try to play the DC area we can try and help, but we're not making any promises. Reach out to us, and we'll see what we can do. Just keep in mind, if we don't like your band, we probably won't help.

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