Best New Venue

Rhizome DC
6950 Maple St. NW
Photograph by Tom White

Recently, Rhizome DC got rid of its first-floor bathroom. That might not seem like a big deal, but knocking out that bathroom—which separated its kitchen from its performance space—makes a world a difference for Rhizome. Why does this matter so much? Because Rhizome DC isn’t just the best new venue in the District, it’s one of the best examples I’ve seen in a long time of how a small-scale venue can, and should, operate. And knocking out that bathroom—making it easier for patrons at a crowded show to see performers—is part of Rhizome’s commitment to being a longstanding venue for D.C.’s music community.

In less than a year, Rhizome DC has established itself as one of the best places to experience experimental and avant garde music and art. Situated in a unsuspecting house in the heart of D.C.’s Takoma neighborhood, Rhizome bills itself as a “nonprofit community arts space … dedicated to promoting creativity as a force for personal empowerment and community engagement.” And in true Takoma/Takoma Park fashion, it “strive[s] to provide a home for non-mainstream programming.” If you’ve been to an event at Rhizome, you know how true that is.

Since opening, it’s hosted an array of performers and artists—from free-jazz ensembles, to sound artists, to drone musicians, to poets, sculptors, and filmmakers—both locals and from as far away as Vienna, Austria. But to get the best sense of just how special a place it is, consider some of its upcoming programming: locals like Super! Silver Haze! and Insect Factory; New York minimalist experimental ensemble Earth Tongues; an electroluminescent wire workshop, and guitarist Tom Carter. And that’s all just within a week.

Merging DIY house venue ethos with the business model of a nonprofit arts center—coupled with its exceptional curatorial instincts—is what makes Rhizome one of the best venues D.C. has seen in a long time. Let’s hope it’s here to stay. (And, never fear, it still has a bathroom upstairs.)