If you’ve ever wanted to be a music superstar, you know that musical talent comes from a lot of training and hard work. All of those musicians and artists you see up on concert stages didn’t get there overnight! In reality, famous musicians have had to put in a lot of work to get to where they are today, and one of the most important parts of that work is playing shows. Musicians have to get their faces on stage and their music out to listeners in order to find new fans.
Several DC music venues in particular have played a role in launching the careers of some of the world’s most famous musicians! If you want to know more about five spots in DC where musicians got their start, check out the list below. These four places offer fantastic opportunities to check out some great bands before they get big!
Bohemian Caverns is where many jazz musicians got their start. The venue was founded in 1926 in the U Street NW area, and it was frequented by greats like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Because of the greats who spent time at the club, many singers were noticed (and, in turn, had their big break) here. R&B singer Ruth Brown, for example, was discovered at Bohemian Caverns, and famous pianist Ramsey Lewis recorded his hit album, The In Crowd, on its stages. Today, the venue continues to attract jazz greats, as well as up-and-coming artists.
If singing the blues is your thing, then you’ll want to check out Blues Alley, located in the heart of Georgetown. Blues Alley is a supper club that has been in operation since 1965. Today, the world’s very best musicians play there, but around its founding, the venue featured up-and-coming blues stars such as Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Eva Cassidy, Dizzy Gillespie, and more. The venue is so historic that there was even a British film made about it! Blues Alley has its own quirky traditions, too – the most popular performers there get to create and add a dish to the supper club’s menu.
Unfortunately for DC residents and music lovers, the Cellar Door, a club in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C., shut its doors in 1981. The Cellar Door was among the most important DC music venues, best known as the venue for “The Cellar Door Sessions”, a live album with Miles Davis. During the 1960s and 1970s, it became the place to sharpen your skills and get ready for a bigger, more national audience. Musicians such as Artful Dodger and Jimmy Buffett came here early in their careers.
U Street Music Hall
It might be younger than some other DC music venues, but since its opening in 2010, U Street Music Hall has cemented itself as one of the most important stages in the Washington DC area. U Street is particularly known for bringing in up-and-coming DJs and electronic musicians. Some great indie bands also played here way before they got big; some of the best include Haim and Disclosure. In a certain sector of the music world, there’s no more important place to play than U Street Music Hall when you’re on the way up.
Photo by Chris Trotter