By Nyame-Kye Kondo, Special to the AFRO
With the D.C. fall art season in full swing, Black musicians and patrons alike are getting amped for a chilly season made warm by good music. Historically known for its soulful vibes, the development of Go-Go and hardcore punk music, Washington D.C. has a legacy of Black musical excellence. One important aspect that enabled these movements to be successful, is Black owned music venues.
Providing Black musicians with consistent work, and the opportunity to display their art in a familiar and often times welcoming environment, the foundation for live music in D.C. would be nothing without Black owned music venues such as the now closed Bohemian Caverns which gave jazz greats like Duke Ellington a platform.
The reality is that in recent years most of the Black owned music venues have been shut down, or bought out by bigger corporations that are not focused on protecting the musical traditions that attracted them to D.C. in the first place. However, the few remaining venues, still impactful, have become musical oases for Black musicians because they are the last of their kind.
Below are some of the Black owned live music venues in the area.
Avery’s Bar and Lounge
A happening addition to the H Street seasonal rooftop club. Avery’s is one of the only Black owned establishments on the newly renovated H Street Corridor, and a chill hangout for D.C.’s local Black millennial crowd. A snug little hub on the second level of a Rowhouse styled building, Avery’s is known for its intimate live music setup, and for the low key party vibes it denotes on a regular basis, but its the weekends that are the most lively.
1370 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002
Ben’s Next Door
Founded by the same family who owns the famous D.C. landmark Ben’s Chili Bowl, Ben’s Next Door is the alter ego of the longstanding restaurant known for its hot dogs, chili and celebrity appearances. Sitting right next door to its predecessor on the illustrious U street. Ben’s Next Door touts a different food flair, and a different experience. Featuring a performance area, a warm ambiance, and a weekly lineup of musical guest, Ben’s Next Door is lowkey enough to be intimate, and live enough to be a happening hangout.
1211 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009
Bin1301 Wine Bar
One of the newer additions to the live music scene in the city, Bin1301 states on its website that it is a “café and bar in Washington, that “offers cocktails, coffee and cake, light dishes, an interesting atmosphere and varied schedule of events.” While the food is a very appealing aspect of the venue, it is the live music and atmosphere that draws the people into its snug den like environment. Featuring free form Jazz trios, husky toned vocalist and eclectic crate digging DJ’s, Bin1301 Wine Bar is definitely the epitome of urban cool on the U street corridor.
1301 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009
Smith Public Trust
Smith Public Trust is described as a “Rustic-modern tavern with American fare, beer, drinks & a bar fashioned from a shipping container” but in actuality, it is so much more. Located in the heart of Brookland, the exterior is non assuming, its not fully clear what is happening behind the establishments dark windows. As inconspicuous as the exterior is, once inside the building it becomes clear that Smith, is not only a fully functioning restaurant, but a music venue as well. With unique artistry on the walls including images of Sun Ra, Meek Mill and a number of others, Smith has the ambiance of an old boutique, library and grandma’s house mashed into one. On the flip side it has a nice sized stage that has featured a slew of artist ranging from the known to the lesser known. Perhaps the only establishment of its kind in the area, Smith Public Trust is a vibrant hotspot in the quite community.
3514 12th St NE, Washington, DC 20017
Takoma station is a well known establishment in the area. A District staple, Takoma Station is one of the grooving spots that reminds people of pre-gentrified D.C. because of its commitment to Go-Go music and its patrons. Located in a quiet neighborhood, Takoma Station has been able to maintain its identity in the midst of all the changes, and to native Washingtonians, it’s an old familiar. A pub, with a full bar and a food menu touting American fare, Takoma station is also known for its live Jazz and Soul music. Housing a medium sized stage, live music sets happens throughout much of the week.
6914 4th St NW, Washington, DC 20012