D.C. was forced to say goodbye to many memory-filled clubs and music venues that permanently closed their doors over the past 20 months due to the pandemic. There is a silver lining, though: The closures allowed surviving venues to innovate and new ones to emerge. As we continue to transition to a post-shutdown world – while living in Covid limbo – there are a plethora of new venues popping up around the D.C. area. The District’s evenings are slowly beginning to buzz once more with eager concertgoers and clubgoers alike. From small venues to new theaters, here is one of the best venue changes keeping our music nightlife alive and thriving. For the full roundup, visit here.
Last month, the beloved Adams Morgan vinyl shop-music venue-cafe hybrid, Songbyrd Music House, moved to its new home in Union Market District where the Coconut Club once resided. With 18-foot ceilings, garage-style sliding window doors and a spacious patio, the open-air venue is a departure from the former cozy, but sometimes cramped Adams Morgan location. After closing Songbyrd down for Covid, owners Alisha Edmonson and Joe Lapan saw the window of opportunity to relocate.
“Prior to Covid, we separated the record shop from Songbyrd and opened Byrdland at Union Market,” Edmonson says. “It’s a great community and businesses kind of thrive together. Then, we were looking at our old space, and asking ‘Is this right for whatever we call post-Covid or existing in Covid?’ So, when the opportunity came, it seemed like the right thing to do.”
In a post-shutdown world, the openness and outdoor tables are a welcoming amenity. Songbyrd currently offers a variety of concerts and events, including free live music and trivia nights that allow people to integrate back into the social and music scene again at their own pace.
“Some people emailed us and said, ‘We’re not comfortable being inside yet. Can we sit outside and still participate, for trivia night or free events?’” Edmondson says. “But then for the people inside, with the two huge roll-up doors it also feels like outside with all the airflow.”
Songbyrd’s new venue also allowed them to shift focus to creating a suitable place for hosting musicians while providing an innovative space designed for the audience — especially the height-challenged concertgoer.
“As a 5-foot, 4-inch person, I can see all the artists on the stage from any place,” Edmondson says. “With the space, instead of going long and narrow, I went taller and wider for the stage. You’re never more than 25 feet away from the stage in any direction.”
The acoustic quality was also important to get right in the new space and is something both owners are proud of achieving.
“How we treated the walls and with the ceiling heights, the sound is amazing,” Edmondson says. “It’s loud without hurting your ears.”
Lapan adds, “We’ve gotten a lot of compliments on how it sounds.”
While the cafe aspect is taking more of a backseat, the menu still features bar food like burgers and quesadillas, but with an emphasis on more portable and healthier options, including a better balance of vegan and vegetarian choices. Plans are also in the works this month to open for brunch.
Songbyrd will still feature an eclectic mix of up-and-coming performers. There are plenty of names to look forward to: breakout indie star Tai Verdes, R&B hip-hop artist RIZ LA VIE and alternative rock band Carver Commodore.
“I’m amazed this year at how many of our acts were on large summer and fall festival bills,” Lapan says. “If you didn’t make it to the festival, there’s a lot of those artists that stop by here.”
Although the AdMo location will be missed, Songbyrd’s new home creates opportunities the original place was not suited for.
“The old space went beyond our wildest dreams: we got to visit amazing artists and its popularity [exploded],” Lapan says. “Now, we have what I consider a really legit awesome small venue that is not forced to be something it’s not meant to be.”
Read our full roundup of must-visit, new and reopening venues here.
Songbyrd is open Sunday to Thursday from 5:30 p.m. – 12 a.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. – 2 a.m. Ticketed shows range from $12-$22. View their show calendar and tickets here.