Fool's Night Out
Fools Night Out comes from a song by Phil Wiggins | Moon photo courtesy Michael's Photo Gallery.

Fool's Night Out : Upcoming Events | Regular Events | Artists | Venues | Reviews | Dance Lessons | Sources & Links



Bangkok Blues [926 W. Broad St., Falls Church - 703-534-0095]
This Thai restaurant has a reputation for excellent food, for the blues and jazz memorabilia hanging on the wall, and its music. It has some interesting shows, often with rather underwhelming attendance. A recent ownership shakeup may change some of this. In the process, the menu got trimmed and a full Pergo floor was installed in the dining room. Since the old postage stamp floor was replaced, some dancers have been showing up to several shows. The bandstand is fairly small and fitting larger bands can be a challenge. The Junkyard Saints, for example, drop the horn section when they travel to Bangkok Blues. The usual suspects here include Melanie Mason, the Grandsons, and Robert Lighthouse. The joint is on Route 7 in Falls Church. There is parking behind the restaurant, but parking can be an issue. Pay close attention to the parking signs, the neighboring strip mall has been known to tow cars at all hours. (Scott Mitchell-06/02/12)
Birchmere [3701 Mount Vernon Ave, Alexandria - 703-549-7500]
This is the third location of the storied Birchmere. This warehouse location is blocks from and many times the size of the prior location. This incarnation actually has two rooms used for music. Typically only one would be used on a given night. The Birchmere is the main venue in town for a variety of nationally touring roots musicians. Prices vary depending on the act and the Birchmere tacks on a "Service Charge" (currently $3) to every ticket. Smoking is only allowed in the bar area of the Bandstand. Shows that appear in the Bandstand will be advertised as being in the Bandstand, if there is no listing the show will be in the Music Room.
Music Room - The Music Room is the default; over 90% of shows are in this room. The room is full of communal tables, which are first come first served. Dancing is actively discouraged in this room. See the venue rules (incidentally this table card is the inspiration for the "Siddown & Shuddup" designation).
Bandstand - This room is significantly bigger than the Music Room. There is a large Pergo dance floor in front of the stage, tables surround the floor on the right side, with the bar on the left. (Scott Mitchell-06/02/12)
Iota - [2832 Wilson Blvd, Arlington (Clarendon) - 703-522-8340]
Iota is located in the ultra-hip Clarendon neighborhood, but started as a single storefront before the big boom hit. It (like Whitlows next door) has steadily expanded into the adjoining stores. Two were joined to form the main room with a third as a restaurant. The remains of that two storefront setup is a nicely artistic wall that artistically blocks the view of the stage. Bands are typically alt-country, roots rock, and the like; both national and local acts. Cover charges are $10+ depending on the band. Dancing is limited by the size of the crowd and your tolerance for the painted concrete floor. On the other end of the spectrum, seating is limited; so if you want a seat get there early and guard your seat fiercely. Parking in Clarendon can be difficult particularly on a Weekend night, but there is a free garage a couple blocks away at 3033 Wilson Boulevard. The Clarendon Metro (Red Line) is also within easy walking distance. (Scott Mitchell-06/02/19)
Jammin' Java [231 Maple Avenue E., Vienna - 703-255-1566]
Jammin' Java is a coffee house in a Vienna strip mall on Route 123. That said, this ain't Starbux. Beyond the front counter, is a music room (also music lessons/practice/recording rooms). The sound here is surprisingly good, once you get past the dull roar from the coffee patrons up front. The bands tended toward the folksy side but that slowly expanded to include rock, reggae, bluegrass, etc. Shows start kind of early, 7:30 or 8; occasionally there are both early and late shows. The cost typically ranges from $10-20. Seating varies show to show. Often patrons end up putting the seats where they want them. Dancing is fine; it might be a problem if it happened en-masse. But it hasnÕt in part because you have your choice of carpet or concrete. They have pretty good food, salads, sandwiches, and chili. They have beer, wine, sodas, and (of course) coffee. Though at least once, theyÕve been drunk dry of the alcoholic stuff. (Scott Mitchell-06/02/12)
JV's [6666 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church - 703-241-9504]
JVs motto is "Ageless charm without yuppie bastardization". That does a good job of summing up the attitude here. It is a small dive bar off Route 50 not far from the beltway. The decor is typical dive bar, heavy on the music and the patriotism. The staff is friendly as are many of the quirky patrons. Smoke can range anywhere from noticeable to intolerable. There is live music nightly, typically the cover charge is just a tip jar. All of the bands and musicians are local, but there are often interesting mixes and tribute nights. For those who like to get up and dance, I wouldn't call the place dancer friendly, although I have and they don't mind, there is just not a lot of room and the floor is carpeted. (Scott Mitchell-06/02/12)
Sunset Grille [7250 Columbia Pike, Annandale - 703-658-0982]
The Sunset Grille is home of the infamous Grillbillies and was Bill Kirchen's Thursday night home for most of the time he lived in this town. It is just off Little River Turnpike in Annandale... two lefts around the Fuddruckers. The front room where the music is held is pretty small and has a rated capacity of 49 people including the staff and band. On a busy night, there can be a waiting list and you are corralled in the back. The prices are reasonable and the kitchen is good. Cover charges are typically less than $5, though there will be a tip jar and there is a culture of tipping the band when they play a request or particularly well. There is live music Tuesdays through Saturday. It is a rotating cast of locals. Johnny Castle's Thrillbilies have taken over Kirchen's old spot, with the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours filling in when Johnny's got a gig with the Nighthawks... others include Perry, Polman & Gamble and Tom Principato. Dancing? It can be done and many of the Grillbillies do but room is an issue and the floor is hard masonry tile. FASHION WARNING: The black lights here make your little black dress look all speckly. (Scott Mitchell-06/02/12)
State Theatre [220 N. Washington St., Falls Church - 703-237-0300]
The old State movie theatre in downtown Falls Church was renovated as a music venue in 1999. The sloping floor has been terraced into three levels. The first two levels have table seating and a bar on each. The lowest level, right in front of the stage, is empty wooden floor that is available for dancing. There is also seating in the balcony. Nationally touring acts and locals play the State; the schedule is predominantly tribute/cover bands but others include rock, blues, New Orleans, etc. artists. Ticket prices vary depending on the band and a $1 "Service Charge" is added to each ticket. It is a non-smoking venue. And while there is parking beside the theatre, it can fill and you may have to go searching in the surrounding area.
Wolf Trap [Vienna - 703-938-2404]
Wolftrap comprises two venues the Filene Center and the Barns. Both venues are non-smoking. If you pick up tickets at the Wolf Trap box office there are no extra charges.
Filene Center is the main concert pavilion that is used for major concerts. It is only open from May to September. The bands that come through are major touring artists, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, B.B. King, Steve Miller, etc. It is also the home to the annual Swamp Romp and the Wolf Trap's Jazz & Blues Festival. Ticket pricing varies by the band and by seating. In pavilion seating is nice especially in case of bad weather, but you pay for it and you cannot bring food inside. The lawn is open for picnics and has a generally festive atmosphere. Prime lawn spots are prized positions, and when gates open there is full-blown rush to get and anchor them. Also, despite being a Federal Park, you can bring in alcohol. Dancing? After years of battling the 'Dance Police' at the Swamp Romp an uneasy truce was reached when a line was painted along the walkway between the lawn and the pavilion. Dance behind the line and youÕre fine... so long as your joints can withstand dancing on concrete.
Barns at Wolf Trap is a great old barn that has been moved, reconstructed, and converted into a venue for Wolf Trap during the winter months. A wide variety of bands play here. There are two seating arrangements; most shows have assigned seating. "General Admission" shows pull the chairs from the beautiful wood floor, which leaves it open for dancing. The balcony and some chairs in the back are left for seated viewing. The Barns is a relatively small venue and shows often sell out. However, "Sold Out" doesn't necessarily mean Sold Out. Often a few tickets show up available the day of the show. I believe these are comp tickets unused by the band.
Note on tickets Resale: A vigorous trade of selling extra tickets is a regular occurrence of Barns gigs. However owing to the Federal ownership of the Filene Center, tickets cannot be re-sold on that property. (Scott Mitchell-06/02/12)


Institute of Musical Traditions [St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 10701 Old Georgetown Rd., Rockville - 301-754-3611]
The IMT series of folk shows are typically Monday nights starting at 7:30 and going until 10-ish. The folks at Takoma Park's House of Musical Traditions essentially run IMT. The current home for the series is the St. Marks Presby church at the intersection of Old Dominion and I270 outside Rockville. The room is large in a neo-Viking style of wooden beams and black steel bolted gussets. The crowds at a recent show filled the 80 some chairs that were originally set out. So more were added, there was plenty of room. In the past there have been IMT "dances", but there is plenty of tile floor space available if anyone is interested in dancing. They have drinks and snacks available for purchase. (Scott Mitchell-06/02/19)
Rosedale American Legion Hall (Baltimore Blues Society) [1311 Seling Ave., Rosedale - BBS Info Line: 410-744-2291]
The Rosedale Hall is not too far of I-95 just the other side of the tunnel. It is a decent sized hall and a bit quirky in a Baltimore way (Plastic pails of beer?... yep). As far as dancing goes, the floor it linoleum and there is room to dance. Some of the Baltimore blues crowd does bop around on the floor so you won't be out there alone. Some DC folks come up for the shows, but typically they are more of the blues crowd than the dance crowd. (Scott Mitchell-06/02/24)

Washington D.C.

Kennedy Center [2700 F Street, NW, Georgetown - 800-444-1324]
I suppose most everyone has heard of the Kennedy Center, it is home for the Washington National Opera, the NSO, and Shear Madness... and a few other things. The center has several different spaces where concerts and plays are held. Nearly all spaces are seated. And as a general rule, the KC staff want everything nice and orderly... no unnecessary dancing in the aisles, standing in undesignated spaces, and the like.
Parking at the Kennedy Center is an issue. Currently it costs $15, but seems to go up with each visit. Across the street at the Watergate it only costs $10. Street parking can be found back toward GW and elsewhere, but can take paitence. The Foggy Bottom Metro is not too far away. The Kennedy Center does provide a shuttle. But the walk isn't bad particularly when the weather's nice and the post-show line for the shuttle is long.

Concert Hall: The Concert Hall seats almost 2500 and is regularly used by the NSO.
Opera House: The Opera House seats 2300 and is regularly used by the Washington National Opera.
Eisenhower Theater: The Eisenhower Theater is somewhat smaller; seating 1100 and is used for musical and theater productions.
Theater Lab: The Theater Lab is the perpetual home of the play, Shear Madness.
Terrace Theater: The Terrace Theater Lab is small at 'only' 513 seats.
Millenium Stage: The Millenium Stage shows are run daily from 6-7pm and include a huge variety of Local, Regional, National, and International tallents for Free. They are held at one end or the other of the North/South Foyer at the back of the building. Seating can be limited. Some dancing is tolerated, but it is on carpet. An archive of past performances is available on the Kennedy Center's website. It is an excellent resource, though performances older than 2002 can have a maddeningly low level of audio/video quality.
South Terrace: The South Terrace is an outdoor space built over the garage extension. It is used on occasion for larger Millenium Stage shows (particularly where they expect/promote dancing) or the Open House and Prelude Concerts. Given the dance focus many of the progrmas have, the folks at the Kennedy Center have brilliantly given us two surfaces on which to dance... really slow concrete and tear-a-joint-in-about-an-hour gravelled concrete. I suspect that the lawyers decided the granite on the West Terrace was just too slick in the wet, so to prevent another slip-and-fall... we'll go with some of the highest friction stuff imagineable. Ah well, I guess I can only complain so much, because shows out here are free and I don't have to dance, do I? Waddaya want for nothin'?
       (Scott Mitchell-06/10/01)

Fool's Night Out : Upcoming Events | Regular Events | Artists | Venues | Reviews | Dance Lessons | Sources & Links

Last Updated: 2006/10/01
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