Ask an Insider: Best Places for Live Music in Alexandria

With the 2nd Annual Alexandria Live Music Week coming up September 30-October 8, 2016, we asked some of our favorite local insiders for the best places to catch live music in Alexandria. Whether you’re looking for a place to see big names in music, enjoy a drink with friends, or hit the dance floor, Alexandria has everything from The Birchmere: America’s Legendary Music Hall, named “the best listening club in America” by The Washington Post, to intimate outdoor acoustic sets on the patio in all different music genres.

You can plan ahead or catch a set spontaneously with live music happening seven nights a week at restaurants and other venues throughout Alexandria, many without a cover charge. Keep reading for our insider’s top picks:

John Taylor
Editor and writer for Weekend and the Going Out Guide at The Washington Post

The Birchmere: America’s Legendary Music Hall

sturgill-simpson-at-the-birchmereImage Credit: The Birchmere Vimeo Channel


It’s John Taylor’s job to know the best things to do in the DC region. A resident of Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, he featured some of his favorite local eateries in a recent profile of the Del Ray dining scene in The Washington Post’s Going Out Guide. John’s top pick for live music in Alexandria is The Birchmere, located just north of Del Ray. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016, it’s a favorite of many of our insiders. John says, “One of the best things about The Birchmere is catching artists on the way up. For instance, I caught the Avett Brothers at The Birchmere in 2008—the third time the boys from North Carolina had played the club—a year before they released their breakthrough album, “I and Love and You.” They’re rock stars now, and I’ll never see them in a venue that intimate again. I had a similar experience with Sturgill Simpson: fortunate enough to snag a seat for his 2014 show in the 500-seat music hall, I’m watching now as fans clamor for tickets to sold-out shows at much larger venues across the river. So in addition to seeing local acts and musicians from a variety of genres, you may catch a rising star at The Birchmere.”

Catherine Portner
President & Co-Founder of Portner Brewhouse

Murphy’s Irish Pub

murphy_s_irish_pub2_720x482_72_rgbImage Credit: L. Barnes for Visit Alexandria

A resident of Alexandria’s Old Town neighborhood, Catherine Portner has a rich family history that will come to life at Portner Brewhouse opening later this year. For live music, Catherine loves heading to Murphy’s. “I enjoy the atmosphere and live music that Murphy’s Irish Pub offers in Old Town. When you walk in and head upstairs, you often find the entire place singing along to a merry tune. It’s always inviting and good fun.”


Sarah Marcella Hallee
Photographer and owner of Sarah Marcella Photography

Blackwall Hitch

blackwall-hitch-live-music-credit-blackwall-hitch-facebook-pageImage Credit: Blackwall Hitch Facebook Page

Sarah Marcella Hallee’s photography business is based in Old Town where she also lives. An avid live music fan, she provided three recommendations, kicking off with Blackwall Hitch“This is for the chill nights out. You can actually talk and listen to music. Blackwall Hitch offers a large dining area and two bars- one indoor, one out. Oh, and did I mention, waterfront views?! You can literally have it all!”

La Tasca

la-tasca-alexandria-flamenco-credit-la-tascaImage Credit: La Tasca Facebook Page

Sarah says, “La Tasca is the perfect place to sit back and enjoy Latin music with a cocktail in your hand. However, if you’re like me, sitting isn’t an option. The music is perfect to get your salsa groove on!”

Daniel O’Connell’s Restaurant & Bar

oconnells-c-davidsonImage Credit: C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria

Sarah’s last suggestion? “If you’re looking for a large crowd environment, loud music and tons of energy, you have to visit Daniel O’Connell’s. My husband and I frequent this bar at least once a month to hear their live music. I also suggest this location for bachelorette parties and birthdays – you’re sure to have an audience!”


Lindsey Swanson & Terry Burcham
Kelley Cares Foundation / local musicians

No. 9 Lounge at Evening Star Café

number-9-lounge-credit-evening-star-cafeImage Credit: Evening Star

Whenever they are in need of a live music fix, Lindsey Swanson and her husband Terry Burcham head to two of their favorite haunts in their neighborhood of Del Ray. “A somewhat hidden gem, the No. 9 Lounge at Evening Star Café in Del Ray is always a fun place to hang out, shoot some pool, and listen to exceptional live acts. The vibe at the lounge is very cool and casual and always offers an opportunity for neighbors and friends to gather and catch-up over top-notch cocktails and beers.”


fireflies-live-music-credit-firefliesImage Credit: FireFlies Facebook Page

Lindsey and Terry added, “Daniel Dia Barrios and his team at FireFlies in Del Ray not only focus on putting out delicious food and drinks, but also lively entertainment. They genuinely care about the artists and their music. The stage and house PA system are excellent, and offer regional bands (including the Janna Audey Band which Terry plays drums in, sorry for the shameless plug!) an opportunity to play in an energetic, family-friendly environment.”


Scott Fallon
Music Editor and Vice President at Alexandria Live
Local Musician and Co-Organizer of Alexandria Live Music Week

Sonoma Cellar 

Sonoma Cellar_Outdoor Dining_CigarNightImage Credit: Sonoma Cellar Facebook Page

As an Alexandria native and a key organizer of the 2nd Annual Alexandria Live Music Week, Scott knows all the best places for live music in the city. He shared two of his favorites. “As a performer and a concert goer my tastes change regularly in regards to my favorite places to see live music. This is especially difficult to narrow down given the number of great venues for music in Alexandria. I really enjoy the smaller and unique venues, particularly Sonoma Cellar, where you can sit outdoors while enjoying a glass of wine and some of Alexandria’s best acoustic artists.”

King Street Blues

king_street_blues_credit_king_street_blues__1__720x480_72_rgbImage Credit: King Street Blues

Scott added, “King Street Blues is a small room where you can have a very cold beer, a BBQ sandwich, and hear solid, local blues/rock performed in a honky-tonk type setting.”



For more on live music in Alexandria, click here.


Header Image Credit: Lisa A. Walker