The Best Open Mics In D.C.
DC Music Download features articles on shows, albums and well-known D.C. artists regularly, but all those pieces are missing one thing—YOU. The District has plenty of talented people and plenty of open mic nights where just about anyone can showcase his or her musical talents. Check out one of these events (there’s one for almost every day of the week!) and show off your stuff, or just take in some fresh live music.
Gypsy Sally’s [3401 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007] 8p.m. Tuesdays
The sound system at Gypsy Sally’s is fantastic, making it the perfect spot for singer-songwriters to perform. The venue is also pretty good about providing equipment and instruments for those that need it (cables, amps, acoustic guitar, keyboard etc). There’s no cover for the open mic, and Gypsy Sally’s also has a few good drink and food specials during the event. If you’re looking for more ways to put your music out there, there’s also a special singer-songwriter showcase that happens twice a month, which you can sign up for at the open mic. Sign-up for the Tuesday open mic starts at 7:30 p.m.
Up and Up Open Mic [Liv Nightclub-2001 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20001] 8 p.m. Tuesdays
Up and Up has solidified a loyal following in the District. The open mic was originally intended to be an unofficial social group between a few childhood friends before blossoming into the movement that it is today. Up and Up breaks the standard format of a traditional open mic, with several witty co-hosts to help keep the night moving along with live painting by local artists. The sign-up list fills up very quickly, and each event brings well over 100+ people a week. The open mic has become so popular that a few notable D.C. musicians have been known to stop by from time-to-time, including Tabi Bonney and Kokayi. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the event, and there’s a $10 cover.
Bohemian Caverns [2001 11th St. NW, Washington DC 20002] 8 p.m., Wednesdays
Bohemian Caverns is mainly known for jazz music, but on Wednesdays it opens up the stage for Verses open mic night (sponsored by Richmond-based Upside Marketing, which presents open mic nights in both D.C. and Richmond). All singers, instrumentalists, poets and lyricists are welcome at this U Street venue. Also, expect to see many different performances while you’re there—each artist is only given the stage for five minutes. The open mic charges a $7 cover at the door.
IOTA Club & Café [2832 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201] 8 p.m., Wednesdays
If you live in Virginia and don’t feel like trekking all the way to U Street on a weekday, Clarendon’s IOTA Club has got you covered. Every Wednesday, IOTA offers an evening-long, mostly acoustic open mic night with sign-ups at both 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. There’s also a featured artist that plays in between the two sessions at 10 p.m.—check IOTA’s website beforehand to learn about the featured artist, or just show up and be surprised. The best part is that this open mic is free.
Modern Times Coffeehouse [5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20008] 8 p.m., Fridays
Known for its coffee and vegan food (and the fact that it’s part of Politics & Prose Bookstore), Modern Times also features an “unplugged” open mic night every Friday. Start off your weekend by belting out a song or hearing someone else fill the room with only his or her voice—Modern Times generally doesn’t allow the use of a microphone. Sign-ups begin at 7:30 p.m. and the event runs until 10:30 p.m., with each performer receiving space for two songs. Each open mic is also free of charge.
Republic [6939 Laurel Ave, Takoma Park, MD 20912] 8:30 p.m., Sundays
You can sign up at 8:30 p.m. for the open mic night at Republic, but the venue suggests arriving early if you really want a spot on the stage—the list has been known to fill pretty quickly in the past. This Takoma Park restaurant/music venue is owned by trendy Bethesda-based Black Restaurant Group (which also runs Black Jack and Pearl Dive Oyster Palace), so you know it’s going to have delicious food and drinks, along with a unique atmosphere. As a bonus, you never know who you’ll run into there—the percussionist for Carolina Chocolate Drops stopped by at Republic’s last open mic night.
Busboys and Poets- day and time vary based on location
District staple Busboys and Poets (whose owner is currently running for mayor of D.C.) offers open mic nights at all locations: 14th & V every Tuesday from 9 p.m.-11 p.m., 5th & K every Wednesday from 9 p.m.-11 p.m., Shirlington every Monday from 8 p.m.-10 p.m. and Hyattsville every Thursday from 9 p.m.-11 p.m. You could literally spend almost every weeknight at a Busboys open mic night. As you might guess from the venue name, there will most likely be poetry happening, but the event is open to all performers (musicians, spoken word etc.). Busboys and Poets open mic nights are usually well-attended and have even had a few celebrity drop-ins (think HBO’s Def Poets)—so get there early.