Most Washingtonians know Marvin, near the intersection of 14th and U streets NW, as a nightlife landmark, a place for dancing to DJs or grabbing a drink with friends. But over the past year and a half, it’s also evolved into an intimate live-performance space for emerging and regionally known musicians.
“We really wanted to honor the legacy of U Street, Black Broadway and its excellence,” says Miriam Lippin, Marvin’s general manager. “So we thought a nice way to do that would be to incorporate music.”
Performances take place four times a week on a small stage in the middle of the first-floor restaurant and cocktail bar. On a recent Thursday night, people relaxed on banquettes and ate dinner in the candlelight as Allison Balanc’s melodic voice filled the room. One group did the electric slide on the cozy dance floor. Funk fusion musician JusPaul and the Blackbyrds and Jenna Camille, a soulful bohemian pianist, are among those who have performed during the weekly sessions. “I’m actively trying to book bands and music I feel are relevant to the past, current and future of D.C. music,” says Joe Herrera, the head of music programming at Marvin and a well-known local trumpet player.
Lippin and Herrera would like to expand the music programming this spring and summer, adding Tuesday and Wednesday nights to the roster. “I’d like to see newer artists around the DMV have a place to perform free of charge,” Lippin says. “Two nights would focus specifically on that.”
Upcoming bookings include velvet-voiced Kenny Sway (Saturday) and the vibrant jazz trio Jack Kilby and the Front Line (April 29). Whether strolling by or dining in, these no-cover performances are an opportunity to hear new music.
“We’re not trying to flip the script on what Marvin is,” Herrera says. We’re “trying to add to it, while keeping in mind where it came from.”
SHOWS: 2007 14th St. NW. Shows take place Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights; full schedule is available at marvindc.com. No cover charge.