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Where to See Live Music in D.C., According to This Local Band

From clubs to coffee shops, discover the capital’s best spots to experience its local sound, thanks to Everyday Everybody.

The guitar player from Everyday Everybody jumping mid-air while performing with his band at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.

Everyday Everybody plays D.C.’s legendary 9:30 Club.

Courtesy of Bertrand Guez/Everyday Everybody

Washington, D.C. attracts millions of visitors annually, all eager to immerse themselves in American heritage through monuments, museums, and political landmarks. But, to find the capital’s true cultural heartbeat, you can’t miss the innovative live music scene that pounds with go-go percussion. Go-go music, a subgenre of funk that emerged in D.C. during the 1970s, was named for its distinctive high-energy sound that kept fans on the dance floor “going and going.” Its enduring appeal led to go-go being declared the official music of D.C. in 2020.

While not all D.C. music is go-go (the city also has an important punk and hardcore legacy), the capital’s nontraditional approach to music still shows up in its eclectic range of venues and musicians. One such D.C. artist, Everyday Everybody, was voted Best Funk Group by the Washington Area Music Association and Best Local Original Band by the Washington City Paper, and has been energizing fans with their upbeat, retro groove inspired by ‘70s funk, soul, jazz, Afro-Funk, and Motown-era pop since 2012. We chatted with Stephane Detchou, creative force and frontman of Everyday Everybody, to learn how visitors can best experience D.C.’s vibrant live music scene.

Have any cultural or historical spots in D.C. influenced your music?

The 14th and U Street area is inspiring. I wrote a song called District. The first line is “Walking down 14th Street turning onto U.” Also, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a huge inspiration for me, especially the top floor where there are all the cultural elements about music, arts, hair, and fashion. I think I’m on my fifth visit and I still feel like I’m learning all the time.

How does the D.C. music scene support new artists?

D.C. has a very strong DIY culture where people will help you create a show. They’ll support you. They’ll rally for the band as what they believe in. It kind of feels like a small community. There’s a camaraderie. Because D.C. is a relatively small market, it’s easy to find connections with people. That’s always been something that we enjoy.

A wide-angle shot of the band Everyday Everybody performing on stage at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.

Everyday Everybody on stage at the 9:30 Club.

Courtesy of Jason Hermann Photography

Where’s your favorite D.C. venue to perform?

The 9:30 Club is hard to beat. Playing at the Howard Theatre was really cool. But it’s a combination of the stage and how it feels to play in front of people. The 9:30 Club and other historic places have a cool vibe.

Then you’ve got places like Union Stage, Pearl Street Warehouse, and Songbyrd where we’re always treated well. In a smaller space, you get really intimate with the crowd, and a lot of our music and our performance has a lot of call-and-response, borrowing from go-go and gospel traditions. When it’s a small venue and we get in sync with the audience, it’s a powerful experience.

Where’s your favorite place to eat after playing the 9:30 Club?

I like Haikan, which is a ramen spot next door. Further up on U Street is Keren, an Eritrean restaurant. Another place we love, in the 16th Street Heights neighborhood, is Hedzole. I think the owner is of Ghanaian origin, but the food cuts across West Africa, like peanut- and tomato-based stews and okra.

What D.C. events or festivals can you recommend for fans of funk, soul, and go-go music?

The DC Funk Parade was a festival run by The MusicianShip and created by Listen Local First DC to highlight local musicians. When we got the opportunity to perform there, it really helped us solidify ourselves as a D.C. band. The MusicianShip also presents the Wammies, which is the Washington area’s music and record awards.

Bossa Bistro has a weekly jam session that we started eight years ago. We passed it to another group, they led it for a few years, and now it’s back with our drummer [John Heinze] who’s leading it now.

There’s just a lot of music going on every night. For people visiting the city, there’s a live music app called DC Music Live. That’s a great resource if you’re coming into the city and trying to figure out what’s going on.

What local coffee shops, bars, or bookstores support D.C. artists?

Definitely Big Bear Cafe, which is just off Florida Avenue. It’s a local coffee shop and restaurant. There’s Boundary Stone, a bar. Both put on a lot of music. You’ve got Sankofa in the Howard University neighborhood. It’s a bookstore and cafe. Home Rule (HR) Records is a record store and they also host the Home Rule Music Festival which puts on local funk and go-go artists.

Where should visiting music lovers stay in D.C.?

Probably somewhere near U Street. There are a lot of different food spots, places to drink, and live music. It’s pretty central, so it’s easy to get up and down 14th Street or to hop over to 16th Street. And there’s a Metro that will get you to different parts of the city. There’s a lot that you can do while walking and feel like you’re part of what’s going on.

Editor’s Note: For a hotel in the U Street area, try the Swann House, a historic mansion turned bed-and-breakfast nearby iconic destinations including Ben’s Chili Bowl and Lincoln Theatre. A convenient base in neighboring Logan Circle is the Viceroy Washington DC or The Jefferson Washington DC.

Which local musicians should visitors try to see while in D.C.?

There are so many. Cecily. Neffy. DuPont Brass. Oh He Dead. You and Me and You. JoGo Project. Backbeat Underground. Outerloop. The list goes on…

An interior view of the dimly lit Pearl Street Warehouse live music venue at The Wharf, Washington D.C.

Pearl Street Warehouse is an intimate live music venue at The Wharf, D.C.’s revitalized waterfront destination.

Courtesy of washington.org

When’s your next D.C. live show?

The next gig is May 11 at Pearl Street Warehouse at The Wharf. If people haven’t been there before, there’s a lot to see. The Maine Avenue Fish Market isn’t as big as it used to be. But it’s still there. And there are a lot of new restaurants and bars to check out. It’s a beautiful place.

To learn more about how to experience music in DC, visit washington.org.

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