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It wasn’t so long ago that an evening at the Velvet Lounge meant endless amateur-hour theatrics, sour notes, and dudes in fuzzy Muppet shoes singing Pearl Jam covers. If you were a band, it was the place where you paid your dues before you could start paying your real dues. But no more! Today the Velvet Lounge boasts some of the cheapest drinks in the District and plays host to small-level jazz, improv, and indie bands that would otherwise never make it to D.C.