No Stopping that DC Beat: The Summer Music Fix

by Anna Poulson

With large gatherings prohibited for the near future, summer in D.C. is looking a bit different for music lovers


Hot afternoons in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden with jazz in your ear and sangria in hand.  A night under the stars at Wolf Trap’s amphitheater. Taking in the sky lawn seating 40 feet above the stage at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Ah, that summer in D.C. feeling and whimsical dreams of times past.  While the year 2020 stays “off-key” as the timeline of re-gathering large crowds in the district is still pending, we rounded up some virtual, socially-distant and creative offerings from our favorite venues.

Producers and artists longing to provide dulcet tunes to D.C.’s music lovers and to hear the palpable excitement of concert chatter again are doing everything they can to keep fans engaged and their businesses afloat — from weekly playlist content, to evenings of livestreams. The evolving music scene in the age of the coronavirus will keep you entertained and on your toes. The show must go on!

@wolf_trap shares a rainbow soaring over the familiar music hall, reminding their audience “As we take on each new day, remember that without rain there would be no rainbows.”

Living Room Jam Session Inspiration

Despite making the difficult decision to cancel their summer season, Wolf Trap is committed to bringing their audience together. Through Twitter polls, fans can contribute to weekly Spotify playlists that are cultivated to take your mind from the living room to a night at the Filene Center: From favorite “mood-booster” to best “love song” to can’t-get-out-of-your-head “oldies” – there is something for everyone.

Additionally, Wolf Trap is bringing their familiar park to your living room with Park Pop-Ups! On July 4, the livestream event will debut with a special patriotic performance from the  U.S. Marine Band’s Free Country Acoustic Quartet. Wolf Trap will continue to gather local artists for Park Pop-Ups, Field Trip Fridays for the kiddos and several streaming opportunities.

I.M.P.’s 9:30 Club also wants to ensure your speaker’s flowing with their curated music recommendations on their blog, Half-Past. With “Music Monday” playlists and frequent album reviews, the staff reveals their hand-picked best-song-evers and keeps their fans up to date on anticipated releases. The variety of tunes give that trendy and current vibe of the nationally-recognized venue, so you don’t miss a beat until they re-open their doors.




Dinner and a Show

A scene from Yard’s Park where the annual concert series usually takes place.

The Capitol Riverfront has teamed up with DC Fray to provide their concert series’ aficionados with virtual events.  “Friday Nights from Home” features live-streamed performances of the series’ most popular artists from the past 10 years.  The free web concerts are taking place every Friday night at 7:00 P.M. until July 3, featuring local artists like Pebble to Pearl and Jarreau Williams. Fancy being whisked back to the days of a pre-show dinner? Navy Yard favorites have it covered. Enjoy 10% off Friday food orders from 5:00-8:00 P.M. with options like house-made focaccia pizza kits at Slipstream, pints of Thai Iced Tea and Banana Bourbon Caramel from Ice Cream Jubilee, and Mushroom Truffle pies at Wiseguy Pizza. Make an evening of iconic music, delicious food and unforgettable company. And yes, we know it’s hard to envision your family’s company as unforgettable after three months of quarantine, but now’s the time to spice up the fam’s Friday night or host an intimate soiree!

Comfort & Concert

While you cuddle up in the comfort of your living room, the Kennedy Center is offering the Couch Concert Series to bring artists directly to you. The series airs at 4:00 P.M. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday with livestream performances that highlight national venues and their respective city’s music culture, D.C. area artists, and the Kennedy Center’s own Directors. The program brings Kennedy Center lovers a diverse approach to virtual entertainment and provides the experience of education and music. As the Kennedy Center has canceled most of its in-person 2020 performances, make sure to explore Kennedy Center @ Home to be able to enjoy their virtual experiences.

@kennedycenter shares an instagram of their empty space and reminds their audience to nurture their creativity by quoting President John F. Kennedy, “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”

A Look Towards the Future

@930club Instagrammed a crowd in awe at a previous concert, reminding fans that this music absence is temporary: “How everyone will look attending their first concert after social distancing.”

Despite ample efforts to offer substantial virtual entertainment, venues, producers and artists are still desperate for live, in-person music events to return in a safe and responsible manner.

Our timelines at Wolf Trap are generational. We’ll be back. We’ll be strong. We’ll be back together as a society, and when we do, music and art and culture will continue to be one of the many binds of our societal ties.” – Arvind Manchoa, President and CEO of Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Many wonder what creative possibilities might be in play in the coming months of transition. Earlier this month, Northwest hangout DC9 Nightclub tested the waters for prospective live performances when they hosted Seán Barna on their stage. The event was attended by as much of a social distance “crowd” as any, with Barna’s two friends serving as his audience and production team. At $7 a ticket, fans could enjoy an elevated livestream experience that showcased a stage performance – one step closer to the “real” thing. Co-owner Bill Spieler described the show’s intentions as “show[ing] bands that 1) it can be done and 2) that people will pay for it.”

Until we can gather again, could a transitional phase of music include more artists performing live for small, masked, and socially distant crowds joined by a larger livestream audience?

With the uncertainty at hand, many venues and artists are struggling financially. As well as trying to provide free, entertaining virtual options, several music industry actors have set up funds for their employees and band members, with many of the donations being tax deductible. Check out the above virtual opportunities, stay up to date with your favorite musicians to see what types of live performances they might be hosting, and consider donating to support the future of your go-to summer concerts.

Venue Funds

Wolf Trap’s Music Moves Us Fund – Supports Wolf Trap’s education and community initiatives and promoting next-generation artists

I.M.P. Family Fund – Supports furloughed employees of 9:30 Club, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Anthem, and the Lincoln Theatre

DC9’s Virtual Tip Jar– An opportunity to virtually tip individual employees to continue supporting DC9 and their staff

U Street Music Hall Employee Relief Fund – This venue and employee relief fund offers unique incentives, like a handwritten thank you note and U Street Music Hall sticker for a donation of over $10!

Kennedy Center Support – Helps provide educational resources and digital content to make the arts “come alive!”


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