Random Nerds serves a national readership, but we live and pursue happiness in Washington, D.C.; a city that, in the past 20 years, has transformed from a sleepy quasi-southern town to a vibrant center of cosmopolitan musical entertainment. Award-winning venues like the 9:30 Club attract top-tier national talent, while our dynamic local music scene provides more intimate (and often more raucous) live experiences.

To be honest, there is now more going on in D.C. on any given week than we could ever hope to see. As such, I have volunteered to begin curating the best musical offerings each month; within a fiscally-responsible budget of $202 dollars.


Big changes are coming to DC’s live music network this month. The Anthem — a 6,000-capacity venue — is opening at the center of our city’s most extravagant development project (so far), The Wharf#, with (controversial) hometown hero Dave Grohl and The Foo Fighters hosting the inaugural concert on October 12th.

As you can probably imagine, that gig has been sold out for months, and I can’t in good conscious suggest that you spend over $202 this month on a single scalped Foo Fighters ticket. But fear not, for there are many other non-Foo options to satisfy your thirsty ears.

Below, I’ve outlined seven of the best shows taking place this month in and around DC, all for under a nice, wallet-friendly total budget of $202. And if Dave Grohl really is the cool guy we think he is, he will understand your frugality.


Starting budget: $202

October 6th-8th: All Things Go Fall Classic
Location: Union Market
Cost: $74

The All Things Go Fall Classic (put on by local media outlet All Things Go) has been steadily evolving ever since its inaugural run in 2014 and now, for the first time, the annual festival showcasing national and local talent will take place over three, jam-packed days.

If you can drop $169 on a three-day pass, I applaud you. If not, $74 day passes are the more flexible choice. However, they come with some decision-making: Friday is for the dance-craving, glowstick-clad crowd, as EDM giants Galantis # headline the night. Meanwhile, Saturday’s headliners Young Thug and Vince Staples # are expected to figuratively burn the roof off Union Market # with their respective brands of fiery hip-hop; though if you do choose to attend Saturday I implore you to come early to see a string of DC’s strongest rising talents too: the socially deliberate Jay IDK,# the spirited anthem-maker Innanet James, and the synthy R&B power-duo April + Vista#.

If, however, you’re desperate for a taste of the rock and roll you can’t afford with the Foo Fighters, Sunday’s line-up includes Bleachers, the solo project of Jack Antanoff, who despite producing every good pop hit of the past 4 years, pulls out his Springsteen-esque guns for a kick-ass live show:

Ultimately, you can’t make a bad choice with a day pass. The big names and local discoveries are worth the early-month cash dump.

Remaining budget: $128


October 12th: Vagabon, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya
Location: Black Cat
Cost: $13

After spending the first weekend of the month powering through a festival, I recommend that you take it down a notch in terms of both crowd size and ticket price and go see Vagabon. The stirring indie rock project of Laetitia Tamko fuses the bone-tingling vocals of The Cranberries with the powerful and personal lyricism of her New York contemporaries, Frankie Cosmos and Half Waif.

Her music, especially tracks like “Cold Apartment,” start soft and luscious only to give way to dramatic and piercing depths at the turn of a verse:

And on October 12th, she will be playing at the Black Cat’s appropriately intimate backstage venue.

If you’re real lucky maybe one of the venue’s regulars, Dave Grohl, will stop by after his other gig that night…

Remaining budget: $115


October 13th Keeper and Poppy Patica
Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum
Cost: Free

By mid-October, I wouldn’t blame you for giving into The Anthem’s siren song of power-bookings and “accidentally” dropping a few hundred dollars on the Lorde and Morrissey shows scheduled for later this year. Luckily, if you do blow your paycheck on the far future, you don’t have to cut back on live shows just yet, for I have a mid-month plan packed with inexpensive local gigs.

DC shoegaze heartbreakers Keeper and jangly rockers Poppy Patica will be playing this month’s free Luce Unplugged show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, so if you can afford the $2 bus fare downtown you can afford to fall into Keeper’s echoey intimacy # and Poppy Patica’s electro-flavored garage rock.

You’ll be bobbing your head in a space so ornate it will make you feel slightly less broke…

Bonus: this early-evening show will inevitably be attended by DC’s supportive DIY scenesters, who will probably twist your arm after the show and give you a ride to Comet Ping Pong for the Babe City+Citrus City showcase…

Remaining budget: $115


October 13th: The Sea Life, Crumb, Yung Pocket$ & Alfred
Location: Comet Ping Pong
Cost: $12

If you’re still hung up on missing Dave Grohl at The Anthem and you’re pondering, “I wonder what local shows he’d be hitting up today as an impassioned young teen from the VA suburbs?” the answer is “any Babe City show ever.”

As one of the hardest working institutions in DC, local record label Babe City consistently puts out some of this city’s best music, including The Sea Life’s self-titled EP, which epitomizes the label’s community-driven energy and gritty sentimentality:

They also reach out to organizations in the region and bring outside talent to our over-priced front doors. In this case, the warm and jazzy psych rock foursome Crumb # and the dark, avant-hip hop duo Yung Pocket$ and Alfred # are coming in from New York and Richmond, respectively, to rep the Citrus City label.

(If you took my advice and went to the Keeper/Poppy Patica show beforehand, the $12 door fee is really only $6 if you think about it.)

Remaining budget: $103


October 16th: TIME, Literals, Bacchae, Reyna Valencia
Location: Comet Ping Pong
Cost: $5-10 donation

You may be nervous that I’ve made it halfway through the month without begging you to spend money on some “weird electronic show,” but don’t fret. This month’s ticket to sonic outer-space will take place at Comet Ping Pong and like all the other shows I’ve recommended lately, it will frugally offset the entire paycheck you may have spent on that scalped Foo Fighters ticket.

Priced at a flexible $5-10 donation, this show features Florida duo TIME, who make it their duty to bring retro-futurist, apocalyptic synth-pop to the unexpecting ears and eyes of America.

The stage production they put on with just a van’s worth of gear is probably the closest thing you’ll ever see to a Daft Punk show in a 150-capacity music venue/pizza place…

Not even Dave Grohl’s heavy-metal wheelchair throne can beat that.

Remaining budget: $93


October 18th: LCD Soundsystem
Location: The Anthem
Cost: $62

If there is one show at The Anthem I can confidently convince you to spend over $60 on, it’s for Random Nerds’ family favorite LCD Soundsystem. Currently, the band’s second consecutive show at the Anthem is NOT sold out. However, that won’t last long considering the first night sold out in about 45 seconds, so don’t sleep on this#.

Instead of taking a single paragraph to truncate the many ways LCD Soundsystem perfects and elevates the multi-genre, live music experience, I will direct you to the articles and podcasts where I gave the topic its due time and devotion. Let me just say that even the angriest, most cynical skeptic of LCD Soundsystem’s suspiciously prompted reunion cannot maintain a hard heart when this band launches into their ensemble-driven, existentially cathartic anthems.

It’s where all your friends will be that night.

Remaining budget: $31


October 20th: Goldlink, Masego, April + Vista
Location:The Fillmore Silver Spring
Cost: $25

I ride hard for cheap local shows, though I’m more than willing to shell out a higher ticket price for a much-loved national act playing to a devoted hometown crowd.

Goldlink is a DC-Maryland native whose album At What Cost is both widely loved, sonically textured, and heavily in debt to the sounds and artists of DC.# Go-go, the percussive backbone of DC, is woven all throughout Goldlink’s music, giving it a genuine celebratory energy to match the electricity of his on-stage presence.

The rest of this show’s line-up is another strong testament to Goldlink’s local commitment, as the show will open with Virginia-native Masego’s smooth jazz-inflected hip-hop and the aforementioned glowing R&B vibes of April + Vista.#

No show this month is as relevant and reflective of DC’s talent as this one. I know you want to think of Dave Grohl as a “from here” but he has nothing on Goldlinks’ local pride.

Remaining budget: $6


With the remaining $6 dollars in your budget you can get yourself a white Foo Fighters decal sticker. And as you choose your shipping options for that Foo Fighters decal, I want you to reflect on the ways DC’s massive and modest musical institutions are, with your help, exponentially growing. But more importantly, I want you to ask how these institutions are supporting artists who live in the city.

As a frequent concert goer (with a sweet new Foo Fighters decal) you have the choice to throw money at luxurious new venues hosting polished and popular national talent. Just don’t forget that the dollars you spend at small venues and DIY shows go further and make DC’s roots stronger.