Exploring DC's Go-Go and Punk Music Scenes Tour: The Bayou

The Bayou's proximity to two DC universities made it popular with students and locals alike.

One of Northwest Washington’s iconic bars and concert venues, The Bayou has hosted many famous performers over its decades of operation, including U2, Dave Matthews Band, and Billy Joel. DC favorites like the Slickee Boys also performed here, along with a long list of other local bands and artists. The small, 500-person venue allowed for intimate and powerful performances that spanned multiple genres. While The Bayou did not host many punk or go-go performances, its fame and enduring legacy has impacted the DC music scene in many ways.

The building, originally part of the Mullett Rowhouses (1910), had functioned as a performance space for many years before becoming The Bayou. Its previous owner, ‘Captain’ Don Dickerman, Errol Flynn, operated a bar called the Pirate’s Den, but sold it to Michael and Vincent Tramonte in 1953, who renamed it and turned it into a bar and performance venue. After taking over, the brothers originally booked traditional jazz performers, but after hiring a new house band that played traditional rock, the venue’s crowd and performers changed.

Because of its location just east of Georgetown and close proximity to George Washington University, The Bayou gained traction among locals and students because of its intimate performances. When Dave Williams and Jack Boyle bought the club in 1980, they started booking even more popular artists. Their company, Cellar Door Productions, soon grew beyond The Bayou’s walls, and they expanded operations to multiple locations. However, The Bayou remained a legendary venue with performances by bands like Kiss, and even a stand-up comedy show by Eddie Murphy.

Unfortunately, due to the rowhouses’ purchase by developers, the club closed on New Year’s Eve in 1998 after hosting its last concert that night. While Williams and Boyle had hinted at the possibility of reopening the club at a new location in the future, this plan was never realized. Many other venues owned by Cellar Door Productions remain open, but The Bayou’s distinct environment could not be replicated. The small space brought local bands, music legends, and Washingtonians together through its concerts, and its legacy has even spawned an aptly-titled documentary, The Bayou.

While The Bayou was not known specifically as a go-go or punk venue, its success as a small and independently owned concert venue characterizes the DC music scene during the creative period of the 1980s and ‘90s. Many people valued the intimate performances, with the venue acting as a beacon for performers large and small.

This site is a part of the Exploring DC's Go-Go and Punk Music Scenes Tour.



2519 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 20037