3. 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.
After opening in 1980 in an out-of-the-way part of town, the 9:30 became ground zero for D.C.'s Reagan-era hardcore scene – local teenager Dave Grohl saw hundreds of bands there. The club snagged every name in new wave, punk and alt-rock, including R.E.M., Nirvana and Green Day, before moving on to more mainstream stuff like Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. Since moving to a larger location in 1996, playing the 1,200-capacity club has remained a rite of passage for indie acts on the rise. Says Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump, "It's got so much character, you wonder if the locals know how lucky they are." More importantly for artists, adds Britt Daniel of Spoon and Divine Fits: "I can't think of any other club that gives its bands bunk beds, laundry, and a private balcony."
Fun Fact: Early on, owners almost named the club Chair Dancing Nightly, Tuba Dancing, Aerosol or Cool Whip.