You might say country music is omnipresent these days, with modern country bands winning Grammys, topping singles charts, and going platinum. And although country is traditionally southern, something about the pervasiveness of horses, wide open spaces, and loneliness in the lyrics make me think of the West.
Which is why I was more than thrilled to discover the only country music bar in our North-South border city: Nick’s Nightclub in Alexandria, or “DC’s Premier Live Country Menu” as it calls itself. Indeed I believe that this is the only country-themed bar in the area, and as near as I can tell the only one that even has a country night. This seems odd in a city so close to and influenced by vast Virginia horse country and Appalachia bluegrass territory, and yet I’m not the only one asking the question, “Is Washington A Country Music Town?” This 2007 Washington Post inquiry discovered that DC’s country radio station receives only 3-4% of the market share of listeners even though the average in America is 12%.
I won’t begin to speculate on the lack of country-ness in our city, but I will tell you that Nick’s offers an haven for those of you seeking a little Billy Ray Cyrus in your night out. Nick’s is best enjoyed on the dance floor, where line dancers and two-steppers come out in full force, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Line dances lessons are offered on Tuesdays (free) and Fridays and Saturdays ($5), and live country bands perform on the weekends. If swing is your thing, stop by on a Wednesday for lessons and some big band music.
My own line dance lesson was taught by Marcia and was successful! We learned 3 dances and put them to music in just under an hour, and were able to practice on the dance floor throughout the night (if you go, be aware of the etiquette that line dancers keep to the center while couples twirl around the outside). If you are not there with a date, be prepared for many gentlemen to ask you to dance! Nick’s also has a full bar and surprisingly large and cheap menu. And, apparently, a cowboys-in-their-undies contest—what self-respecting country bar wouldn’t?!
My favorite part of Nick’s is its truly non-Washington crowd. According to servers and employees who I talked with, most patrons come from Virginia, some as far as an hour away. You’ll see old-timers with the two-step perfected, dashing young men in Carhartt overalls, and prize belt buckles galore. What you won’t see are suits, $8 pints, and White House staffers.
All in all, Nick’s offers a good time for those of us dealing with a bit of country music whistfulnesss, and for those seeking a one-of-a-kind night out. You’ll have to go more than once to experience all it has to offer!
To get there: 642 South Pickett Street, Alexandria, VA 22304. (703) 751-8900. 15-minute walk from the Van Dorn Metro stop. Cover charge on weekends (ladies free ‘til 9).