in partnership
This cavernous club in an industrial section of Northeast has staked a claim as the go-to spot for nationally touring DJs and dance acts. (Image: Doug Van Sant)

Seeing a concert in D.C.? Here's where you should pregame the show

A few music venues take their microbrews and whiskey seriously. At others, you’ll be lucky to get a lime in your gin and tonic. Same goes for food -- for every decent pulled pork sandwich you’ve had before a show, you’ve probably endured ten sad grilled cheeses and five soggy tuna wraps.

Bottom line: you can often do better than counting on your concert hall for sustenance and libations. Below, we've paired a few of our favorite venues with nearby spots that can provide either a worthy introduction or a fitting coda to your night.

Sure, it’s the opposite of a gritty old rock club, but there may not be another venue quite like the Anthem in America—a club configuration that maxes out at around 6,000 people.

Mark your calendar: Fleet Foxes, May 18

Post-show wind-down: You won’t want for options in the gleaming new Wharf development, but the plan here on a show night is easy. Exit, turn right, then turn right again into Shake Shack.

This cavernous club in an industrial section of Northeast has staked a claim as the go-to spot for nationally touring DJs and dance acts. (Editor's Note: We feel that this article is worth a read.)

Mark your calendar: Gramatik, Apr. 20

Pre-show warmup: You’re not very far here from New York Avenue and the murderer’s row of new distilleries in Ivy City. Our favorite is Jos. A. Magnus, where you’ll find a small cocktail lab called the Murray Hill Club.

The low-key basement of this funky D.C. bar features everything from indie rock to DJs to spoken word to classic album parties.

Mark your calendar: Anais Mitchell, March 16

Post-show wind-down: In the brand-new Line Hotel, cocktail maestro Todd Thrasher turns out punches from a cart. And it’s hard to beat booze on wheels.

Before Anthem came along, Hamilton was the cool new kid in town with all the best toys—especially if you dig their mix of rock, blues, bluegrass and funk.

Mark your calendar: Hungarian Heritage Blues Festival featuring John Popper of Blues Traveler, John Nemeth, and Little G. Weevil, March 15

Pre-show warmup: Yeah, we know: Hamilton’s three floors have plenty of bars to keep you busy. But if you care to make another stop, head across the White House grounds to GCDC, the grilled-cheese-and-wine-centric spot off of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Theater at MGM National Harbor
No one is breaking any new musical ground here; it’s a home for well-established acts who draw fans with money to spend—and gamble.

Mark your calendar: Air Supply, Macrh 28

Pre-show warmup: You’ve got competing celebrity chefs here and as usual, José Andrés wins out with his eponymous fish spot with its gin and tonic oysters and lobster jambalaya.

9:30 Club
What more needs to be said about the perennial best club in America? Not much.

Mark your calendar: Beth Ditto, March 10

Post-show wind-down: Head to Five to One around the corner, where Dram & Grain alum Trevor Frye slings some of the best cocktails on U Street—many inspired by the band playing 9:30 that night.

Pearl Street Warehouse
The Anthem’s little brother at the Wharf, Pearl Street has become a reliable spot for folk and Americana acts.

Mark your calendar: Kristen Hersh and Grant Lee Phillips, March 16

Pre-show warmup: Dinner options on the waterfront are legion, but oysters, fried shrimp and one of the city’s most underrated cocktail programs make Hank’s Oyster Bar the pre-show pick.

Gypsy Sally’s
The hippie-ish vibe under the freeway in Georgetown here carries over into the music, which spotlights Americana acts, jam bands and even the occasional Grateful Dead tribute act.

Mark your calendar: Dumpstaphunk, March 11

Pre-show warmup: Bar a Vin, the low-key wine bar adjacent to Chez Billy Sud.

Black Cat
The very definition of a gritty rock club, Black Cat keeps the flame of DC punk burning.

Mark your calendar: U-GOD (of Wu-Tang Clan), March 9

Pre-show warmup: There are almost as many recommendations to give as there are bars on 14th Street. But for our purposes here, it’s hard to beat Compass Rose, where the cocktails are inspired by international spice markets, and the Khachapuri bread with cheese and egg will ensure you won’t be hungry during the show.

Rock n Roll Hotel
The shabby chic (and possibly haunted) ex-funeral parlor is Northeast’s top spot for indie rock on the main level and DJs upstairs.

Mark your calendar: Marlon Williams, March 23

Post-show wind-down: There’s really no beating Maketto for convenience (it’s next door) and variety (cocktails, coffee, bao buns, sneakers).