In a city that claims Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey, Jelly Roll Morton and Shirley Horn, it's no wonder DC not only appreciates, but celebrates jazz. The U Street "Black Broadway" Corridor stays true to its roots to this day as the epicenter of jazz culture in DC. HR-57, Bohemian Caverns and the Lincoln Theatre book local and touring jazz sets which pack the house. In Georgetown, Blues Alley draws visitors and locals to the nation's oldest jazz supper club.
Restored to its former glory after being shuttered, the Howard Theatre hosts popular musical acts. Founded before the famed Apollo Theatre in New York City, the Howard Theatre once launched the careers of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye and the Supremes, among others.
While many cities boast about their jazz traditions, there’s no other that can claim go-go — and there’s no place to experience it like in DC. Named for its nonstop, danceable beats, go-go is a fusion of African percussion with hints of Latin, jazz, funk, hip-hop and soul. Instruments like congas, the timbale and cowbells punctuate the steady pulse of bass and snare drums. DC native Chuck Brown, dubbed "the godfather of go-go," has been a prominent figure on the local music since the late 1970s, when he released his first hit, "Bustin’ Loose." Brown continues to draw crowds when he appears on DC area stages.
Fans of electronica and house music can follow the roots of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, also known as Thievery Corporation, at Eighteenth Street Lounge, where top DJs from around the globe showcase their soft beats and ultra-cool style. The success of Eighteenth Street Lounge has led to the opening of other lounge-style clubs that also feature electronica sets like Chi Cha Lounge, Local 16, Marvin and Gazuza.
The DC music scene is best experienced live, and there are plenty of top-notch venues to check out. The 9:30 Club packs in crowds nightly and earns its reputation as the best live-music venue in the country, according to Esquire. The Black Cat (Foo Fighter Dave Grohl is an investor) is more of a warehouse space showcasing indie and post-punk rock shows. DC9 fills the gap between huge music venues and tiny bars, featuring a host of indie musical acts, popular DJs and a jukebox with more than 300,000 songs. In the Atlas District, the Rock and Roll Hotel also packs crowds throughout the week for live bands and funky entertainment options.
While DC’s a little bit rock 'n' roll, it’s also a little bit country. The city's proximity to the Appalachian Mountains led to bluegrass and country first finding a large forum in the Washington area. The first nationally televised country music concert was broadcast from Constitution Hall in 1948; that milestone was followed by a bevy of country, bluegrass and folk greats, including the Seldom Scene and Roy Clark as well as Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter, who got their start with regular gigs in Dupont Circle. Bluegrass and country music is still played at Madam's Organ in Adams Morgan or the Birchmere and Nick's in Alexandria, Va.