I’ve wanted to check out Jammin’ Java for years and last night, the dream was realized. This particular adventure was prompted by both my lack of anything better to do and the fact that there was a battle of the bands being hosted. So I figured, why not go?
My first thought upon reaching the Jammin’ Java parking lot was, “Really? This is it? But it looks so tiny!” That opinion changed as soon as I set foot inside.
The venue features the standard set of concert hall mood lighting mixed with a fully stocked bar, quick eats galore, and minimal seating. Much to my surprise, the place was a lot bigger than I anticipated. Beyond the bar, there was a moderate-sized standing room that, if packed to capacity, could hold quite a few bodies.
Last night was night two of the Mid-Atlantic Battle of the Bands hosted by Jammin’ Java and sponsored by Sucker Punch Recording Studio, so I got to catch Jammin’ Java at its finest aka hosting a nice assortment of local entertainment. The best part about any venue like Jammin’ Java is that their claim of being “run by musicians and music-lovers for musicians and music-lovers alike” is true.
Robin Smith, the lead singer/guitarist for Battle of the Bands contestant The Very Small (TVS) said, “Jammin’ Java is one of those places where every show is packed full of music lovers,” and no … his assumption wasn’t too far from the truth.
Most everyone around were Jammin’ Java virgins until last night’s event. First-timer and TVS fan/music lover, Jill Elkins, has lived just ten minutes away for years before finding out how much fun it was. Now, she can’t wait to come back! Fellow first-timer Becca Dunn was confused by her surroundings but enjoyed the actual venue. “It was an odd group because it was 18+, had high schoolers, college-aged kids, and middle-aged people and they were all their because they were big fans of whoever it was they were coming to see,” she said. “[...] That and the food seemed better than regular bar food and there was a great mix in general. Not quite bar, club, or restaurant.”
Another first-time visitor, Leslie Finstein of Silver Spring, was just as thrown off by Jammin’ Java’s exterior as I was. “From the outside it looked like any other strip mall store front,” she said, “but inside it felt like I was at some little place on U Street where hipsters sip coffee all day and then switching over to glasses of wine at night.”
“I never expected to find a place like that sitting next to a Walgreens and across the street from your local bank,” Finstein continued, “Jammin Java was completely unexpected.”
Since opening its doors in 2001, Jammin’ Java has gained quite a reputation and is ranked as one of the top 100 clubs in the world (as far as ticket sales are concerned) by Pollstar Magazine. Don’t let the poster-covered walls confuse you, Jammin’ Java is no grungy joint.
There’s more to this place than music, food, and drinking though. Music lessons taught on all-levels for all-ages are run through Jammin’ Java’s Music School. The Music School is run out of the venue and features lessons in songwriting, guitar/bass playing, and percussion.
And — on the off chance one of your friends ever chooses to drag you to the Jammin’ Java to see a show for a band you’ve never heard of on a night you wanted to stay in and veg-out on your couch — there’s always arcade versions of the ORIGINAL Donkey Kong and Super Mario Brothers to amuse you while waiting for the night to end. I know I played a round. It only costs 50 cents.
Smith summed up the evening better than I ever could. “The community surrounding Jammin’ java is a unique one,” he said. “The people who work there are always friendly, helpful, and know a ton about the scene.”
Jammin’ Java hosts live entertainment seven days a week in addition to running a weekly Open Mic and is located at:
227 Maple Avenue East
Vienna, VA 22180-4630
For more information regarding ticket sales and how to sign-up for the Open Mic, visit their website.
All photos by Rachel Levitin.