Nothing says “America” like a star-studded musical bonanza, right?
“The Concert for Valor” a free, three-hour Veterans Day concert sponsored by HBO, Starbucks and Chase, takes over the Mall — and a good part of Washington — Tuesday. Streets will be shut down, music will blast, Metro will offer extra-fast service (now that really would be a holiday miracle).
The lineup is an extensive one, ranging from exactly the kind of people you’d expect to be associated with a gigantic display of patriotism — Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson — to people you, well, wouldn’t (isn’t Jessie J British?).
Attendees can also expect performances from The Black Keys, Dave Grohl, Eminem, Jennifer Hudson, Metallica, Rihanna and Zac Brown Band, as well as on-stage appearances from Bob Woodruff, Bryan Cranston, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, Jack Black and John Oliver (pretty sure he’s British, too). Some celebrities — such as Will Smith, Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey — will not appear in person, but via recorded “special tributes” that will be aired during the event.
The announcement that more than a dozen stars will be taking over the Mall for a free concert undoubtedly has you asking a lot of questions: How can I snag a spot? How should I prepare? Is this going to disrupt my commute?
Is this going to be worth the hassle?
This isn’t the first time the Mall has played host to a big concert. It’s not even the first time the Mall has played host to Bruce Springsteen.
The Boss’s last appearance on the Mall — for the “We Are One” concert held before President Obama’s first inauguration — is probably the best comparison for Tuesday’s event. That concert, also organized by HBO and held on a Sunday in January 2009, drew more than 400,000 people, according to media reports. The most conservative attendance estimates for this year’s concert start at 250,000, but concert organizers have obtained a Park Police permit for up to 800,000 people.
That means “Concert for Valor” attendees should anticipate a similar experience: long waits at security checkpoints, especially for those who arrive later in the day; poor sightlines to the main stage (although there will be jumbotrons and loudspeakers to supplement the view); and lots and lots of people.
Temperatures won’t dip as low as they did for that inaugural concert (nearly six years later, some people still haven’t gotten the feeling back in their fingers), but next week’s highs are forecast to be in the 50s. And the temperature will drop as it gets dark, meaning that it could get as cold as the mid-40s before the concert ends. The show will go on, even if there’s rain, snow or a polar vortex.
Adjust your expectations accordingly. If you prepare well, head to the event early and are willing to wait, Tuesday should be a night to remember. If you don’t like crowds or cold weather, well, the view of the television is pretty good from your couch.
I’m a fan of [insert band name here], but I’m not really interested in those other guys. Any way I can just show up for one performance and then leave?
Not really. Concert organizers are keeping the order of performers and their set lists a secret. “Viewers should be able to enjoy the concert as it unfolds,” Quentin Schaffer, HBO’s vice president for communications, wrote in an e-mail. In other words, this is a free opportunity to see some of the biggest names in music. Enjoy it.
What songs will be performed?
Expect to hear a mix of patriotic tunes and the performers’ biggest hits, according to concert organizers: “Songs that would resonate with most veterans and families.”
Where is all of this happening?
The stage will be positioned at the east end of the Mall along Fourth Street NW, with the Capitol behind it; 13 jumbotrons will be spaced along the Mall for the benefit of those farther back. The designated concert area is contained between Madison Drive to the north and Jefferson Drive to the south and extends from the stage on Fourth Street all the way to the Washington Monument.
Because of a turf restoration project in front of the Smithsonian Castle, a large triangular patch of grass will be closed to concertgoers. This area (marked by shading on the map above) has one corner at the intersection of 12th Street and Madison Drive, another at 12th and Jefferson Drive, and a third at Seventh Street and Jefferson Drive.
What time should I arrive?
The concert starts at 7 p.m. and runs till about 10, but spots on the Mall are first-come, first-served. The Mall opens at 10 a.m., so strategize as you see fit. (But remember that it’s illegal to camp there overnight.)
The concert area can be accessed via eight checkpoints, a pair on either side of the Mall at 15th, 12th and Seventh streets, plus additional entrances at 17th Street and Independence Avenue NW and 14th Street and Madison Drive NW. You’ll have to pass through security checkpoints, so leave time for waiting in line.
How can I get there — and get out once it’s over?
Huge swaths of the area around the Mall will be closed to traffic starting at 6 a.m. Tuesday, including most streets south of Pennsylvania Avenue and west of Third Street and all of 12th and Seventh streets south of the Metro stations at Metro Center and Gallery Place. The closest Metro stop to the concert — the Smithsonian station — also will be closed the day of the concert, so no matter how you plan on arriving, be ready to walk.
Metro will operate rush hour service all evening, and nine stations around the concert area — Metro Center, Federal Triangle, L’Enfant Plaza, Archives, Gallery Place, Federal Center SW, Union Station, Judiciary Square and Capitol South — will remain open for an unspecified time beyond Metro’s usual weekday closing at midnight until the crowds on the Mall have dispersed. Other stations in the system will stay open late, but only for riders exiting the Metro.
A word of warning to riders in Virginia: Blue Line service will be suspended all day, replaced by Yellow Line trains that will leave from Franconia-Springfield.
Capital Bikeshare will have corrals at the 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW and 12th Street and Independence Avenue SW stations. They will open at 6 p.m. and close 30 minutes after the end of the concert.
For those traveling by car, your best bet is probably to park at a Metro station and take the train from there. There is no designated parking for the event, nor will be there be any street parking around the Mall. Officers will ticket and tow cars parked on the designated streets when they close before the event.
That sounds like a traffic nightmare. Which streets should I Avoid?
The following streets will be off-limits to parked cars after 7 p.m. Sunday and closed to all vehicular traffic starting Tuesday at 6 a.m.:
●Constitution Avenue NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to 18th Street NW
●Madison Drive NW from Third Street NW to 15th Street NW
●Jefferson Drive SW from Third Street SW to 15th Street SW
●Independence Avenue SW from Third Street SW to 17th Street SW
●Maryland Avenue SW from Independence Avenue SW to Seventh Street SW
●Third Street from Constitution Avenue NW to C Street SW
●Fourth Street from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to
C Street SW
●Sixth Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Constitution Avenue NW
●Sixth Street SW from Independence Avenue SW to
C Street SW
●Seventh Street from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to
C Street SW
●10th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Independence Avenue SW
●12th Street ramp from Interstate 395 to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
●14th Street from E Street NW to C Street SW
●15th Street from E Street NW to Maine Avenue SW
●17th Street from C Street NW to Independence
what can/should I bring?
You’ll definitely want at least two blankets — one to sit on (chairs are barred from the concert area and the only seats are reserved for servicemembers) and one to wrap around yourself. Those hand warmers you can put in your gloves and pockets? Also not a bad idea.
Depending on when you plan to arrive at the Mall, you’ll probably need two meals’ worth of food. Be sure to bring water, some sort of warm beverage (again, it’s an outdoor concert in November) and enough entertainment to keep you occupied during the long wait.
The list of forbidden items is fairly standard for an event on the Mall: No alcohol, ammunition, balloons, bicycles, hard-shelled coolers, explosives, glass containers, laser pointers, pepper spray, folding chairs or tables, tents, strollers or weapons. All attendees will have their bags searched at the concert entrances, so do everyone a favor and leave your balloons and your laser pointers at home.
7 p.m. sounds like dinnertime. Will there be food?
Unless you’re planning on subsisting on soft pretzels and hot dogs, it’s best to bring your own sustenance. Packing a meal is one way to go, but there are also plenty of places downtown where you can pick up a picnic.
Breadline: 1751 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-822-8900. www.breadline.com
Open 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
An extensive list of sandwiches made on some of the best bread in the city.
Red Apron Butchery: 709 D St. NW. 202-524-5344. www.redapronbutcher.com
Open 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Meat sandwiches that meet every artisanal buzzword: local, small-batch, responsibly raised.
Jetties: 1921 I St. NW.
Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sandwiches, soups, salads and ice cream. We know someone who’s penned an ode to the Nobadeer (roasted turkey and stuffing with cranberry sauce on sourdough).
Sundevich: 1314 Ninth St. NW. 202-319-1086. www.sundevich.com
Open 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Fresh, internationally inspired sandwiches on fantastically crusty bread.
Taylor Gourmet: 485 K St. NW. 202-289-8001. www.taylorgourmet.com
Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Philadelphia-style hoagies with imported Italian meats and cheeses.
Twelve hours is a long time to spend on the mall. What if I need to use the restroom?
There will be portable toilets within the concert area. Indoor bathrooms at the Washington Monument Lodge also should be accessible, though the lodge shuts down at 5 p.m.
There will be 12 first aid stations at various points along the Mall and a family reunification center near
12th Street and Madison Drive.
Who should be going to this?
The concert is first and foremost for servicemembers, veterans and their families. About 12,000 seats have been set aside for members of the military, and those tickets are being distributed via the public affairs offices for the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard. Interested servicemembers can’t apply for these tickets, however; the distribution of the designated seats is at the discretion of each service branch.
Most area public schools have the day off for Veterans Day, as do federal and D.C. government employees. That means a lot of people have the entire day to stake out their spots. If you’re not one of the lucky folks with a paid holiday, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find a spot once the work day is over — at least, not a very good one.
I want to see the performers in person, but not the crowds. Is there any way to do that?
There are going to be dress rehearsals and sound checks on Monday and Tuesday. Though the timeline for these rehearsals, like that of the main event, remains private, it couldn’t hurt to sneak over during your lunch break Monday and see what’s up. Or you could spend the day casually walking endless loops of the Mall till you catch sight of your favorite artists.
I’m busy/have to work/don’t really feel like camping out on the mall for 12 hours. Is there any other way to see the concert?
What’s the point of having a concert sponsored by HBO if you can’t watch it on TV? The show will be televised live on HBO (which will open its signal, allowing nonsubscribers to watch) and can be streamed (for free!) via the event Web site, www.theconcertforvalor.com. HBO also plans to rebroadcast the show a number of times during November.
This is awesome/crazy!
We agree. But it’s also a one-time deal — as of now, organizers have no plans to make this an annual event. So revel in the madness while it lasts (or just avoid downtown until it’s over).