The late afternoon sun drifts lazily through the large open windows of the Songbyrd Music House on 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan. Bartenders and chefs are preparing for the evening’s business, and owner Joe Lapan and publicist Peter Lillis sit at a high top table drinking coffee from the adjacent Record Café.
This weekend marks the opening of the third piece of the Songbyrd Music House and Record Café—the performance space—and with a capacity to support around 200 people, it brings a new venue to Adams Morgan. Though Songbyrd first opened in April of this year, it did so merely as a place to buy some records, snack on a sandwich, and, uh, record your own vinyl track on a 1947 Voice-O-Graph machine.
“We thought Adams Morgan deserves a decently sized music venue beyond what it currently has,” Lapan says. “You have your venues where you’re going to get live music that are similar size to ours, but not necessarily in this geography.”
But Songbyrd is much more than just a larger venue for Adams Morgan, and all three aspects—record café, restaurant and bar, and music venue—work together as a complete home for music lovers. “Think about your house,” Lapan says, “it has these separate spaces that all function differently, but they’re all where you live.”
Lapan’s metaphor is an apt one. The bar and café are comfortable and feel more akin to someone’s living room than commercial establishments, with cushioned seats, dim lighting, and exposed brick. Records are everywhere. This aesthetic carries even further into the music venue, where deep reds and dark woods have the look and feel of a ’70s basement.
Coupled with the comfortable aesthetic is the emphasis that Lapan and co-owner Alisha Edmonson have placed on sound quality. The desire to provide high fidelity audio across a variety of genres and media led Lapan and Edmonson to have a sound system installed by ITI Audio, the folks responsible for the sound at U Street Music Hall. This sound system allows for everything from DIY punk bands to DJs spinning R&B and Soul to really elevate their sound and performance…
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