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Established in 1926 on U Street, Bohemian Caverns hosted the likes of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway in its heyday. Today, the iconic club is a mecca for DC jazz fans.
Established in 1926 on U Street, Bohemian Caverns hosted the likes of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway in its heyday. Today, the iconic club is a mecca for DC jazz fans.
 

African American Music & Nightlife

DC's rich African American heritage is reflected in its music and nightlife.

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NIGHTLIFE

Washington, DC is well-known in the African American community for its wealth of nightlife options. Celebrities and visitors come from all over the country to experience the “grown and sexy” vibe that exudes from DC’s clubs and lounges. Whether you’re in town for a sporting event, business meeting, family reunion or college alumni event, you won’t have to look far for a way to spend your evenings.

If dancing the night away with more than 1,000 other club-goers is your speed, try Friday nights at LOVE. Owned by nightlife impresario Marc Barnes, the club is rumored to be the largest in the entire country and frequently plays host to top athletes and celebrities including P. Diddy, Jay Z, Erikah Badu, Gilbert Arenas, Chris Samuels, Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx. While you’re there, make sure to watch out for celebrity sightings. Other “club night” options include FUR Nightclub, boasting a diverse crowd dancing to hip-hop, top 40 and dance music, and Ibiza, a 30,000-square-foot club (playing hip-hop hits on Fridays) with seven bars, multiple VIP areas and a rooftop deck.

For the same experience in a smaller package, try Sunday nights at Fujimar, Friday nights at Modern or any night at the super exclusive Park at 14th or FLY. As far as lounges go, there is no shortage of them in the District. To laze through the night with cocktails in tow, stop through Urbana, Jin, the upstairs lounge at Marvin or Bohemian Caverns. On Tuesday nights, Lotus Lounge is a must.

MUSIC

What do jazz great Duke Ellington, Motown legend Marvin Gaye, R&B crooner Roberta Flack, pop songstress Mya and godfather of go-go Chuck Brown have in common? DC is where they all got their start, and they have all made their mark on the District's black history.

Jazz: Much of DC’s musical history is centered north of downtown on U Street, which was once known as “Black Broadway.” DC natives Pearl Bailey, Jelly Roll Morton and Shirley Horn were regular fixtures on the entertainment circuit, playing such venues as Bohemian Caverns and the Lincoln Theatre. Also home to jazz greats of both past and present is the historic Howard Theatre, now fully restored to its original grandeur and then some. For another soulful experience, catch a set at Georgetown’s Blues Alley, the nation’s longest-running jazz supper club.

Go-Go: While several cities boast about their jazz and country traditions, there’s no city besides DC that can claim go-go. Named for its nonstop, danceable beats, go-go is a fusion of African percussion with hints of Latin, jazz, funk and soul. DC native the late Chuck Brown, dubbed “the Godfather of go-go,” had been a prominent figure on the local music scene since the late 1970s, when he released his first hit, “Bustin’ Loose,” a song that later inspired rap artist Nelly’s hit single “Hot in Herre.”

The next generation of go-go artists carry on Brown’s legacy, often covering current hit songs or adding a twist of hip-hop and R&B to sets where they play their own songs. These groups, including Rare Essence, Back Yard Band, Lissen Band, The UnCalled 4 Experience and others, still have a place in the DC urban music scene.

The influence of go-go music can also be heard in chart-topping mainstream songs like Ludacris’ “Pimpin All Over the World,” Jill Scott’s “It’s Love,” and Lil’ Jon and the East Side Boyz’s “Aww Skeet Skeet.” To hear live go-go while visiting the District, check out the Thursday-night performance line-ups at Zanzibar or FUR Nightclub, or the line-up any night at Mirrors or Takoma Station.

Live Music Venues: Of course, the nation’s capital is also a popular stop for touring performance artists. While the Verizon Center fills up for national headliners like T.I. and Justin Timberlake, it’s DC’s intimate neighborhood venues that always earn rave reviews. For underground rap, reggae and more, check out who’s playing at venues like the 9:30 Club (named the best live music venue in the country by Esquire in its Esky Awards), Takoma Station Tavern or Bar Nun.

Established in 1926 on U Street, Bohemian Caverns hosted the likes of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway in its heyday. Today, the iconic club is a mecca for DC jazz fans.
Established in 1926 on U Street, Bohemian Caverns hosted the likes of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway in its heyday. Today, the iconic club is a mecca for DC jazz fans.
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