"Summertime" is synonymous with "concert season," but there's a bright side to gig-hopping in these dark winter months. As we retreat to our area's numerous general admission music venues, we gain the freedom to stand wherever we want.

General admission nightclubs offer the twin perks of intimacy and choice. If the band feels too far away, you can politely nudge a little closer. If the acoustics sound funny, you can relocate to another spot. If your fellow concertgoers are too chatty, too smoochy, too tall, too sweaty or too soused, you're free to find new neighbors.

And while dead-center-two-rows-back is the ideal standing spot in just about every Washington-area venue, landing it requires extreme punctuality. You're much too busy for that. That's why I've drafted this guide to the best places to stand in our area's general admission music rooms.

My regular spots have a lot do with the body I was born into. I'm a man, so I don't often deal with creeps trying to grope me, which is more common in big crowds than anyone would care to admit. I'm also 5-foot-9 -- average for American men -- which means I can post up toward the front without ruining anyone's night. (Tall people: Your excellent genetics require you to suffer on airplanes and in nightclubs. Please be cool and move toward the back).

As for the venues not included in this guide, our area's cozier clubs are pretty great no matter where you set up -- Blues Alley, Bohemian Caverns, Twins Jazz, Jammin' Java, Comet Ping Pong, Flash and others all fit the bill. And because certain other venues don't always offer general admission - the Lincoln Theatre, the Hamilton, Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club -- we left them off the list, too.

So with that, here are my tips on where to stand.

(Please save me some room.)

Drawings (done by me) are not to scale. All except 9:30 Club illustrate the ground floor; balconies are not depicted. A star indicates the best spot to stand.

9:30 CLUB

If you care about how a concert lands on your ears, standing near the soundboard is always a smart bet. This is where the techs are doing air traffic control for the entire venue, and you're positioning yourself to hear what they're hearing.

Unfortunately, the sight lines at the 9:30 Club are overrated and the club is often jammed with human bodies, some of which played basketball in high school. If it's a tall crowd, try the balcony directly above the soundboard.

Capacity: 1,200

815 V St. NW. www.930.com.

BIRCHMERE

This is a general admission supper club, which isn't my favorite arrangement because you have to arrive early for the best seats. So I find that the closest I can get to the stage and a little to the right is best. Most Birchmere acts are veteran artists taking victory lap tours, so it's fun to see them in stately three-quarters view, as if they're sitting for a portrait.

Capacity: 500 seated

3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. www.birchmere.com.

BLACK CAT

Like great rock-and-roll -- plenty of which I've witnessed inside these walls -- the mysterious magic of this spot is somewhat inexplicable. But when I feel like my connection to the performance is going staticky, I move here and the signal instantly clears up. Try it.

Capacity: 700

1811 14th St. NW. www.blackcatdc.com.

DC9

This is a fine-sounding club no matter where you're standing, so it's looks that matter most. Standing in this spot, you'll be able to watch the band perform against a wall whose red paint appears to glow with a vaguely psychedelic and totally fantastic warmth. (I also find that singers tend to play a little more to this side of the room.)

Capacity: 200

1940 Ninth St. NW. www.dcnine.com.

ECHOSTAGE

Anywhere is good. Or bad! It's hard to know, because it's loud everywhere at Echostage and the lights are dizzying, which is all part of this massive mega-venue's democratic design. But the stage is incredibly wide, so the acts can feel far away even when you're standing close. I recommend trying to find the most comfy spot closest to the very center of the club.

Capacity: 6,000

2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE. www.echostage.com.

FILLMORE

This is another wide-staged venue where the artists can feel far away, even when you've scored a place up front. But there are symmetrical sweet spots near the end of each bar where foot traffic is light and the action feels close.
Capacity: 2,000

8656 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. www.fillmoresilverspring.com.

HOWARD THEATRE

Smack-dab in the very middle of the dance floor seems like an obvious place to stand at a concert, but that's rarely the case. It gets claustrophobic! But not at the Howard, where high ceilings make the room's epicenter feel quite comfortable.

Capacity: 1,200 standing

ROCK & ROLL HOTEL

When it's packed, the Rock & Roll Hotel can be a chatty, antsy churn of human annoyingness. So posting up in this corner is the best way to avoid pushers, shovers, drink-spillers and talk-too-louders. You're essentially searching for shelter -- and you're right next to the water cooler in case you get thirsty.

Capacity: 400

STATE THEATRE

Standing in the back is for jaded cranks, but not at the State Theatre, whose dance floor falls on a lower tier closest to the stage. So standing in the very back of that area is actually like standing in the middle of the room. It's the perfect spot.

Capacity: 1,000

220 N. Washington St., Falls Church. www.thestatetheatre.com.

U STREET MUSIC HALL

This club has invested in Washington's best sound system and I've been told that this is the sweet spot, whether a DJ is spinning in the booth or a band is performing onstage. And I believe it. Set up here and you'll be surrounded by dancing bodies and swaddled in exquisite sound. Isn't that why you came?

Capacity: 500

1115 U St. NW. www.ustreetmusichall.com.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the capacity of the State Theatre is 800. This version has been updated.