The Interns' Guide: Low-Cost Live Music

By Fritz Hahn Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 31, 2005; 2:20 PM

Bars with no cover and live music abound in the area, although you're expected to buy a few drinks to support the venue (and the musicians, who may get a cut of the sales). JV's, a mid-century Falls Church roadhouse, offers country and bluegrass five nights a week. Friday through Sunday, the shoebox-size Galaxy Hut has no-cover concerts featuring local and (occasionally) international indie rock. The Silver Spring branch of Austin Grill alternates between rockabilly, blues, country and singer-songwriter showcases, and offers a great late-night happy hour. Jazz and blues fill many nightspots, including HR-57 (where you can bring you own liquor), Mr. Henry's, Cafe Toulouse, U-topia, JoJo and Ellington's on Eighth.

The oft-pricey Blues Alley draws some of the top names in jazz, and students and congressional staff can see them for half-price Sunday through Thursday when they show a valid ID. Something for the weekend? Try Twins Jazz on U Street; the cover charge is halved with a student ID on Friday nights.

Occasionally, you can find a club that combines drink specials and music. For example, H2O often has a live salsa band on Friday nights; and when you sign up for the guest list on the H2O Web site (, you and a few friends can go dancing for free. And Dream's Web site offers a coupon for free admission and access to an open bar and free buffet on Friday evenings. Once inside, you don't have to pay an extra charge for the live hip-hop performances. The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Common and Ginuwine are among the stars who have graced Dream's stage, though you may have to kill a few hours between entry and when the performers begin. Thursdays find more of an international crowd, and the music reflects this, with international salsa and merengue bands occasionally taking the stage. (See our section on clubs for more tips on getting into the hottest nightspots for free.)

Remember that the lack of a cover doesn't mean it's a good deal. Chi-Cha Lounge, for example, has live bands Sunday through Wednesday, but the drinks are anything but cheap. The live salsa at Rumba Cafe is often exceptional. The mojitos are decent, but overpriced.

If you're looking for something beyond a dark (and sometimes smoky) club, the free and daily shows at 6 on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage are a year-round favorite. See Irish pipers, tap dancers, Latin jazz, the Kennedy Center's Opera House Orchestra -- all in one week. Tickets are not required, but seats fill fast. Save more: Instead of parking at the center, take the free shuttle bus from the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station.

During the summer, the Washington area's parks and squares are havens for free live music.

In Bethesda, reggae, swing, blues and jazz are offered at a series of lunch and evening concerts -- every Thursday evening in Veteran's Park and Friday afternoon at Bethesda Place Plaza. Herndon's "Friday Night Live" brings modern rock, '80s cover bands and others to the Town Green every week. Reston Town Center offers free rock and jazz concerts on Saturday nights.

The National Gallery of Art offers jazz in its sculpture garden every Friday night; classical ensembles entertain on Sunday evenings in the Garden Court. Fans of local punk and rock music often make an evening of Fort Reno, the long-running concert series that presents local indie, alternative and punk bands on Monday and Thursday nights in the shadow of Civil War-era fortifications.

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