My brother-in-law claims that this Alexandria concert venue is “the best thing in Virginia” and I’m hard-pressed to dispute him. The Birchmere is a music lovers dream with a 500 seat concert hall, a mock-German beer garden with it’s own stage, a side room with a few pool tables, a gift/record shop (featuring an impressive collection of blues, folk, traditional country, and bluegrass), a nice selection of microbrews on tap, great food (seriously!) and, most importantly, a friendly laid-back atmosphere.

I’ve seen a few shows there and have never been disappointed. In the main hall, seating is at large family-style tables and no matter where you are in the room you feel like you could reach out and touch the performers. In the beer garden area, performances take on your typical nightclub concert scene with a mass of people in front of the stage swilling beer and talking with the band.

Now in its third incarnation, the Birchmere has helped spawn the careers of Roseanne Cash, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Dave Matthews Band and others. With a state of the art sound system designed for acoustic music, the Birchmere attracts the likes of Lyle Lovett, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Victor Wooten, Pat McGee Band, Buddy Guy, Junior Brown, Dr. John, Ozomatli, Los Straightjackets, and countless others. For a look at the musicians who the Birchmere has hosted over the years, one need only browse through the signed posters that cover their walls.

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