The Soundry, a nascent arts incubator, cafe and music space in Vienna, is only a couple of turns off the city's artery of restaurants and nightspots, including Jammin' Java. But a few blocks can make all the difference: The converted auto-body shop, which opened last winter, is set apart in a strip of industrial buildings that makes it feel sort of underground.
Husband-and-wife team Thor Berglie and Jennifer Crawford-Berglie are cultivating a community of artists and performers by offering what they call "a gym for creative people." Member artists and musicians pay for the use of studio and rehearsal space. But the public is drawn in by the cafe (there is no bar here) and the Soundry's eclectic regular events, which include a spoken-word night, a bluegrass jam, even a BYO vinyl night.
The highlight: Tuesday's regular open mike, where area musicians hone their skills (sign-up is done through the Web site). "How do I follow Lucinda Williams?" one performer joked recently after singer Jamie Zanelotti's heartfelt set. Later, a pair of baby-faced 19-year-olds, Michael Cammarata of Lorton and Robert Shropshire of Alexandria, blew away the crowd with a trio of original songs showcasing Shropshire's jaw-dropping falsetto.
When you should go: Tuesday night open mike, beginning at 8 p.m.; bluegrass nights on alternating Wednesdays at 7. Both are free.
-- Lavanya Ramanathan (July 24, 2009)