Well, it's 9:30 somwhere
April 18, 2010 5:03 PM   Subscribe

"The 9:30 Club became the place in Washington where the misfits could go and nobody would judge them. The scene became bigger as MTV opened the doors to this kind of music. But the 9:30 Club was on the ground floor."

Today's Washington Post magazine features an oral history of the 9:30 Club, in celebration of its 30th anniversary. (Alternate link to just the text of the article.)
posted by Ike_Arumba (59 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another great quote:

"At the end of a really hot show, the walls would sweat brown nicotine. The smell was the combination of all that smoke, the sweat, the rats, the occasional patchouli, the plaster of that building being 100 years old, probably the garbage in the alley coming through the back doors. And the beer kegs leaked and saturated the subfloor. I... See More have a vial of the smell somewhere. But I don't want to open it. The vial is vile." -- Donna Westmoreland, longtime 9:30 club employee

Anyone who was ever at the old 9:30 Club will never forget that smell.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 5:04 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


What I remember most clearly, for some reason, is the coat check sign downstairs which had been altered to read "Goat Check".
posted by Wolfdog at 5:10 PM on April 18, 2010


I saw Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper there, in the days of this awesome song.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:13 PM on April 18, 2010


I grew up going to the 9:30 club. It is one of the things I miss after having moved away from the area.

I made it a point to see a show there on my most recent visit home and boy was it worth it. It's just such a great venue.
posted by dopamine at 5:14 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


My daughter's played the 9:30 Club. Twice.

After a week at Girls Rock! DC summer camp, the girls had formed a band, written a song, learned instruments, done merchandising, then, THEN, performed at the 9:30 Club, with full lights and sound, all donated labor and facilities and instruments. Fantastic program.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:22 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, the smell.
posted by contessa at 5:23 PM on April 18, 2010


When I was living in DC five years ago, the 9:30 club was a very expensive venue where you went maybe twice a year to catch a national act. The indie Mecca at that time, though, was the Black Cat, which now seems to be just as ascendant as the 9:30 was. Where do the cool kids go now?
posted by The White Hat at 5:27 PM on April 18, 2010


Huh. Who knew I was actually somewhere cool one night? Oh, the smell. I think I might have contributed.
posted by Mizu at 5:32 PM on April 18, 2010


I was at the very first show at the current 9:30 club -- I saw the Smashing Pumpkins there. It was amazing. They played a whole acoustic set in their pj's (and D'arcy in a prom dress)... Then they came up and rawked the fuck out for 2-3 more hours. They played every song on Melon Collie, every song on Siamese Dream, a bunch of b-sides, and they even played a few songs off of Gish and took requests at the end of the night.

I was maybe 20 feet from the stage the whole time, close enough for Billy Corgan to spit water on me.

The Pumpkins were my favorite band at the time -- I mean, I was obsessed. I'm pretty sure I cried at one point. It was also the first concert I had been to and got me into live music and clubbing big time.

The best thing about the 9:30 club is that it's big enough to get huge bands (I saw Radiohead on the OK Computer tour there), but small enough to feel intimate. The worst seats in the house are still amazing.

It's one of the venues in DC that I've always wanted to play at, just to say I have. But I've at least been up on stage while my friend was djing, so it's close enough.

Btw, if you're in DC -- The U St Music Hall is the big deal now. Smaller than 9:30 by a long way, but a similar vibe, and unbelievable sound. I was lucky enough to play there the first week it was open and the bass is awe inspiring.
posted by empath at 5:32 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nation/Capital Ballroom was a far better club than 9:30, but they tore it down for the Stadium. I'm boycotting the Nat's for the rest of my life because of that.
posted by empath at 5:36 PM on April 18, 2010


The 9:30 club hasn't been out of the mainstream for a long, long time.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 5:39 PM on April 18, 2010


Didn't the U St music hall open less than a month ago, and don't they exclusively feature DJ acts?

I'd hardly call that "the big deal." There are plenty of other small venues around the city, and most of them seem to manage to bring in good up-and-coming musicians. The lack of hype surrounding the DC music scene is one of the things I like best about it, even though a few people currently seem dead set on turning DC into "Brooklyn South."
posted by schmod at 5:48 PM on April 18, 2010


There are a lot of clubs I wish I could have gone to just once at a certain period in time, and the 9:30 Club in the summer of 1986 would be near the top of the list. There was just some amazing stuff going on in DC then, a lot of it created by bands who never recorded much, and the 9:30 Club was the center of it.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:55 PM on April 18, 2010


My favorite show I saw at the old 9:30: The Young Fresh Fellows. They were opening for Joe Stummer. 1989 or 90. Wow
posted by Ike_Arumba at 5:58 PM on April 18, 2010


When I was living in Boston, I took the greyhound to D.C. to see Moxy Fruvous at the 9:30 club. I have no idea if that would have been the old one or the new one.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:58 PM on April 18, 2010


Old 9:30 was spectacular. Saw The Toasters at least three times there.

dcspace was better.
posted by bardic at 6:00 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Didn't the U St music hall open less than a month ago, and don't they exclusively feature DJ acts?

Nope, they do bands. Djs on the weekends, though.
posted by empath at 6:00 PM on April 18, 2010


though a few people currently seem dead set on turning DC into "Brooklyn South."

I wish. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places, but I can't seem to find any kind of arty/musicy/creative scene in DC that doesn't pale in comparison to other east coast cities.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 6:02 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Michael: Read byt for all your hipster party needs.
posted by empath at 6:04 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny. I've only been there once in '98 or '99 to see the Squirrel Nut Zippers and was amazed at how clean and un-smokey it was compared to any club that I'd been to in Pennsylvania. I was used to places with giant clouds of smoke hovering over the crowd and I guess by that time DC had banned smoking indoors.
posted by octothorpe at 6:14 PM on April 18, 2010


Memories from my days the old 9:30 club: my friend Joey yelling for Candy Guts at The Dambuilders; sneaking a Guiness at The Beatnuts; Half-Japanese; porn and Luis Bunuel playing on the monitors next to the stage; The Meatmen beating people over the head with an enormous double-ended dildo; Common Sense (before he was Common) on a tirade about The Evils of the White Man, and the embarassed looks I caught from the overwhelming black crowd around me. The place was so tiny... seems like the crowd was never more than 8 deep to the stage.

I only went to the "new" 9:30 club once, and that terrible, drunken performance by Frank Black kept me away from The Pixies until well into adulthood.

My favorite show from those days was Lungfish at The Black Cat, but the venue had none of the character of the 9:30 club. I think someone actually cleaned the bathroom there.
posted by eddydamascene at 6:20 PM on April 18, 2010


oh hi 930 club thread.

the first concert i went to alone was there-- it was King Missile and Insane Jane. I could only stay for the first song of king missile, and it sounded awful. i tried to mosh but some big goth dude next to the horrible column gave me a look that said "Do not touch me 13 year old grunge pussy" and I stopped. Then I had to get on the metro and go back to MD. It was the best night of my life.

you can say and i have said lots of negative stuff about the new 930 club and its yuppie clientele and sometimes overzealous bouncers. but when my band played there last year they treated us like kings and were the most professional and expert crew i've ever heard about anywhere. all the history makes it one of the best places to play in the usa, not because of nostalgia but because of the experience that the owners and managers bring to the running of the spot. it's not some House of Blues run by journeymen who dont care about the reputation of the establishment--its THE 930 Club. Which is probably why it's consistently one of the most profitable clubs of its size ever.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:34 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy cow, does this bring back memories. I don't live in NoVa anymore,but I spent a huge chunk of my life in the DC music scene.

I,easily, have been to 500 shows at the 9:30 (both venues). While I really preferred the F Street club, the new place has breathing room and a kick-ass sound system.

I can't believe I still had time to go to the Cellar Door, and the Bayou, and Crazy Horse, and Blues Alley, and the Black Cat, and the Twist and Shout, and Louie's,and the Birchmere, and the Wax Museum ....

Thanks so much for this post.

(I might try to do a post on the Wax Museum. That was the best place ever to see a show.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:37 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The lack of hype surrounding the DC music scene is one of the things I like best about it

i know what you mean but let me speak for every dc musician when i say this is not an ideal situtation vis a vis eating and paying rent.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:38 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


The indie Mecca at that time, though, was the Black Cat, which now seems to be just as ascendant as the 9:30 was. Where do the cool kids go now?

Cat is the same as it ever was. Certainly not the place for the kind of generic rock headliners that you see at 9:30 club.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:52 PM on April 18, 2010


I'm headed there in a few weeks to see Josh Ritter. Last time Josh took the stage there, it was a pretty great show.
posted by emelenjr at 6:54 PM on April 18, 2010


Bad Brains!!
posted by Mr. Crowley at 7:03 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW the line that the 930 Club sells out more than any other club is well-wrought piece of propaganda on their part. They have a movable stage so when they have a smaller show--they have a smaller room and can sell out at anywhere from 600-1000. Still, just part of their total dominance of the scene.

The thing that's going to really challenge them isnt the cat which is more of a symbiotic younger brother, its this Fillmore Place in Silver Spring. But since Montgomery County is like the 3rd most corrupt place on earth, the chance of that spot opening without bankrupting Live Nation is about 40%.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:05 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I was living in DC five years ago, the 9:30 club was a very expensive venue where you went maybe twice a year to catch a national act.

Expensive? In the next two months I'm going to see OKGO (tix: $20) and the New Pornographers ($30) at the 9:30. I think I paid $15 to see Kinky last fall. The Black Cat's hardly any cheaper. When I think "expensive" I think of Lady Gaga or Death Cab playing at the Verizon Center or DAR for tickets in the triple figures.
posted by kittyprecious at 7:07 PM on April 18, 2010


I think this was the club where I saw Billy Bragg do a show with the Dead Presidents. It almost sounds like a drug-induced mirage, but I swear it wasn't.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 7:13 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw Motorhead there in the fall. Good sound, good-size crowd, but fuck selling "beers" that are 4 oz in a Solo cup. Don't spend any money at the floor bars.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:23 PM on April 18, 2010


The 9:30 Club is one of the two establishments I've ever gotten kicked out of :( that bouncer can go fuck his mom.

The National Zoo was the other one.
posted by little e at 7:42 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I live about three blocks from the 930 Club, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
posted by awesomebrad at 7:57 PM on April 18, 2010


Oh, and assuming everything goes right, my girl will be there again August 14.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:05 PM on April 18, 2010


Dead Presidents? I meant Dead Prez. Goodbye all my hip hop cred, blame a head full of allergy meds
posted by Juicy Avenger at 8:12 PM on April 18, 2010


I saw Autechre there, back in the day.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:45 PM on April 18, 2010


Yeah, I think Nation was better. Haven't been to a show in DC in 8+ years, though, so who knows, now..
posted by Alterscape at 9:06 PM on April 18, 2010


The smell. (Of the old club. The new one is fine, it's just WUST with new management, but it's not the old 9:30.)

Oh, the smell. I can *still* smell it.
posted by feckless at 9:11 PM on April 18, 2010


I was standing right in front of one of those infamous metal poles at the old club during a Dead Milkmen show when someone threw a stage diver at my head. CLANGGGGGG!!!

That part of town is scary now, though a different flavor of scary than it used to be. All the artists studios and porn shops and wig stores and nightclubs are gone and instead we have ESPN Zone and Hooters. Sigh.
posted by speedlime at 9:11 PM on April 18, 2010


There are a lot of things that I miss about DC. But the 9:30 Club is the only one that makes me want to ever live there again (ok, and the Black Cat).
posted by The World Famous at 9:18 PM on April 18, 2010


My buddies and I used to go to the original 9:30 Club a lot in the mid-1980s to see the Slickee Boys. I also got to go backstage to meet Pianosaurus since a friend of mine knew someone in the band.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:35 PM on April 18, 2010


dcspace was better.

(I might try to do a post on the Wax Museum. That was the best place ever to see a show.)

dcspace had the best music (for those with avant-jazz leanings), and the Wax Museum was just unbelievably posh, with great sound, for the popularity level of artists they booked (Graham Parker, Gang of Four, Ornette Coleman), but the punk-divey 9:30 Club was pretty great in its own way. Obligatory pre-fame celebrity encounter story: Natalie Merchant brushed against me on her way to the john. 10,000 Maniacs used to play there like four times a year, and it was packed.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 12:38 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this was the club where I saw Billy Bragg do a show with the Dead Presidents. It almost sounds like a drug-induced mirage, but I swear it wasn't.

The first week of my college career, I ventured to the 9:30 to see Guided by Voices open for Cheap Trick. That was a hilarious night, ending with Robert Pollard singing backup (half-empty bottle of Jack in hand) for Robin Zander.
posted by god hates math at 3:12 AM on April 19, 2010


9353. (2008 video, but that song properly belongs in the old club)
posted by pernoctalian at 3:46 AM on April 19, 2010


So many great shows. Once when I saw Robyn Hitchcock at the 9:30 I walked in and the first person I noticed was Peter Buck, leaning against the bar. He joined the band for the encore ("Bells of Rhymney," if I recall correctly). I saw Was (Not Was) there in December 1988. Once of the best shows I've ever seen in my life and the place was almost empty. My then-girlfriend (now my wife) didn't feel like going so I still have her unused ticket--and I had the Was boys autograph it when I saw them recently in Annapolis. Dumptruck always played great shows at the 9:30. So did the Reivers. One lunch hour I went to the ticket window in the lobby to buy tickets--didn't even go into the club itself--and the stink remained in my clothes for the rest of the day. Good times? No, great ones.
posted by Man-Thing at 4:17 AM on April 19, 2010


I saw Autechre there, back in the day.

I wonder if that was the same show I saw. My stoned buddy was so put off by the screwy time signature of the beats that he was forced to retreat to some quiet chill room in the back.
posted by exogenous at 5:05 AM on April 19, 2010


Why does DC history forget about Tony Perkins and the Psychotics? They were practically the old 9:30 Club house band.
posted by doctorschlock at 5:49 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


While I don't much like going to shows, since I'm neither a music guy nor a scenester, I do love the 9:30. Particularly due to one show, about eight years ago.

Nick Cave was playing that night. Cave was accidentally hilarious, as usual. (To me, he's not a musician but a brilliant comedy act who may not be aware that he's a comedy act, which makes it even funnier. My apologies, Cave fans.) The crowd had more than a few jagweeds in need of being beaten senseless with their own shoes, also as per usual. The bouncer with the giant ear-plates, multiple piercings, and countless tattoos surveyed the crowd for troublemakers, as he always does.

Also that night, on the floor, near the right-hand speaker towers, I first saw the Future Mrs. Jerkwater, the stage lights catching the purple highlights of her hair and the gentle silhouette of her face.

Ah, the 9:30.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 6:27 AM on April 19, 2010


For those complaining/asking about where the punk dive scene has moved, try the Corpse Fortress out in Silver Spring.
posted by Suparnova at 6:38 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The (old, real) 9:30 was pretty much the center of my life from the summer of 1988 until it moved. Mr. Arkham and I had our first real date there at a Gwar show...he gave me his glasses to hold while he went into the pit and they got knocked out of my hands. I crawled on the "bloody", disgusting floor on my hands and knees to find them, but only came up with a broken pair of frames and one lens.

If Demeter made an "Old 9:30 Club" scent I would totally buy it. Maybe not wear it though.

I've been to the new club plenty of times, and seen some awesome shows, but it isn't the same. And they certainly never have "3 bands for 3 bucks" anymore.
posted by JoanArkham at 6:48 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh my. Put me down in the "misspent mid-1980s youth in the old 9:30 club" camp. While the Bad Brains were, well, the Bad Brains (e.g., incredible), and I still have a soft spot for seeing Vigil open for The Chameleons, hands down my favorite show at the old 9:30 was Public Enemy and Swiz. Random.
posted by googly at 7:58 AM on April 19, 2010


The Post did a great job with that story; I read the whole thing and watched the clips, and now I'm nostalgic for a place I've never been. I love this anecdote:
Every night, we would give the act a pizza. It was really bad pizza, but it was something. This rat was stumbling on the pipes above the dressing room -- we had just gassed the rats -- and it falls from the pipe, face up in the pizza, feet up, tail up. We had some Three Mile Island rats.
Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 8:13 AM on April 19, 2010


My college roommate made a documentary about the 9:30 Club!

Washington Post | Variety

He's the closest thing I will ever have to a big brother, and he is a genius, and so I highly recommend seeing the film if you have the chance!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:52 AM on April 19, 2010


Two 9:30 Club shows stick out in my mind:

October 31st 2001 - The Sapphire Bullets TMBG cover band opens for TMBG and plays the entire of Flood album (you would have thought it was TMBG they were so good...)

And the September 11th 2001 Ben Folds show rescheduled to the 14th (was great to get away from the TV and have a laugh at Ben doing push-ups on top of the Piano while the audience counted for him)
posted by mincus at 11:06 AM on April 19, 2010


Thanks for the post. I remember my band covering Straight Edge by Minor Threat at the 9:30, while Ian MacKaye sat on the side of the stage. I couldn't look at him. They tell me he was laughing.
posted by grapefoot at 4:45 PM on April 19, 2010


i remember going there as a teen in the 82-4 era and getting "ernie" stamped on my hand to indicate i was underage. saw REM there. among many many others. good times.
posted by lucysun at 7:38 PM on April 19, 2010


SLYT Video of 9:30 Club Hallway June 1983.
posted by lucysun at 7:44 PM on April 19, 2010


Minor Threat live at 9:30 1983 part1 part2
posted by eddydamascene at 8:49 PM on April 19, 2010


Oh, the smell. I loved the old 9:30. It was, to a suburban kid only rarely able to go to shows, the epitome of rock-and-roll-club authenticity. Including the smell.

I will say that when I went to see Nick Cave at the new 9:30 a couple years ago I was ready to be a right jerk about the "new" club...

Okay, okay, it's not the old 9:30, which was sure not aiming for "nice," but I appreciated the sane photography policy and the decent beer for somewhat reasonable prices and the good sight lines. I think of it as "9:30 Part Deux: We Grew Up and Might Like A Nice Yet Relatively Intimate Place To See A Well-Known Band, Thanks So Much."

(Plus it's an excuse to have faaabulous Ethiopian food for dinner.)
posted by desuetude at 8:40 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


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