The vibe: Going to the Tree House Lounge feels like going to a really fancy house show. It’s set on the second floor of a renovated brownstone, formerly home to a private cigar bar and lounge, next to Gallaudet University. The exposed brick walls, hardwood floors and large windows provide a polished look, if a little too new and glossy.
It also can resemble open-mike night at a college coffee shop, with anywhere from four to six acts sharing the stage on a weekend night. Owner Colin Hoss, né Khaled Hossainkhail, keeps things running smoothly. He’s an old pro, having booked bands at Glover Park’s Grog and Tankard for 27 years until he and his brothers sold the place in 2008. Colin, though, got bored and wanted to get back in the music game in an “up-and-coming area.”
Typical headliner: Bands you probably haven’t heard of, your friend moonlighting as a guitar-strumming troubadour, or a friend-of-a-friend’s blues-rock band from somewhere in the Midwest.
The artists at Tree House on any given night run the gamut from blues to folk to jazz quartets, with the occasional hard rock or hip-hop act. “We keep it melodic, and they have to be positive,” Hoss says. “We do pretty much everything except hardcore and death metal.”
Since opening last April, Hoss says he’s booked about 450 bands, 400 of which were touring acts. Packing the bills, Hoss says, allows him to pack in more people: “If you have two bands, you might have 20 people there. If you have five bands, you have 60 people there.” Bands get a cut of the standard $8 cover charge based on the crowd; when you walk in the door, you’ll be asked who you’re there to see.
Starting Jan. 29, local band Blues Train will host an open blues jam on Wednesday nights. Musicians are invited to bring their instruments and take a turn onstage.
What can I eat? Tree House Lounge doesn’t sell food, but there’s a Sicilian pizza shop next door, and customers are invited to carry pizza in. Otherwise, Union Market is a short walk down Florida Avenue. The restaurants and carryouts of H Street are a few blocks south.
What does a beer cost? Yuengling goes for $4 at the short bar in the back of the room.
Nice touch: Hoss says Tree House will soon expand to the first floor of the building, which will add another bar and more room for people to hang out between bands. A 21-seat patio will open with warmer weather.
-- Fritz Hahn (Jan. 10, 2014)