Ballpark Blues
April 5, 2006 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Ballpark Blues. To make way for a new stadium and redevelopment, DC has been clearing out the underground bar and club scene in the Navy Yard area of southeast Washington. The first victim was Tracks, one of DC's first gay clubs and the epicenter of the nascent Goth scene in DC--closed in 1999 to make way for an office building. Now the rest of the neighborhood's gay clubs are being demolished to make way for the new stadium. And finally, Nation, home of Cubik(formerly Buzz), Velvet and Alchemy is closing to make way for another new office complex. DC nightlife will never be the same again.
posted by empath (19 comments total)
Ah Tracks. That takes me back. I was just running through that area during the National Marathon two weeks ago and remembering dancing at Tracks, getting mugged at know, the usual.
posted by OmieWise at 7:07 AM on April 5, 2006

If you were involved in any of the 'scenes' in DC in the past 15 years, chances are you spent a significant amount of your nightlife hours in one of those clubs in that neighborhood. For myself, I went to Tracks on the Goth/Rave thursday night party every week for years. I bought my first legal alcoholic beverage there (and my illegal one there, too) I had mostly moved on to Buzz by the time of Tracks' closing night, but I still went for that, and it was incredibly bittersweet, a reminder of all the good times there, and that so many people who were so different could share a wonderful moment like that.

Buzz at Nation captured a little bit of that for a while, but after being chased out of the city by Fox News, the Military and local police in 2002, it was never really the same when it re-opened as Cubik. Still -- Nation was the home of probably my personal best nightlife experience-- DJing in front of a sold out crowd of 3000 people, opening for one of the most popular DJs in the world. I still have the pictures, but the place it happened will soon be gone for ever.

There are no suitable substitute venues anywhere in DC, and most club owners are averse to book anything but mainstream music and hip-hop now. It's truely a shame. In the late 90s, DC had an underground nightlife I'd have put up against any city in the world. But now there is nothing left.
posted by empath at 7:10 AM on April 5, 2006

Plus, Lulu's and Poly Esther's both closed! (Though not because of the stadium.)
posted by inigo2 at 7:17 AM on April 5, 2006

I knew nothing good would come from MLB ripping the Expos from Montréal. I'm sorry to see that the Nationals are messing with the lives and fun of yet another group of people.

I recently spoke to an employee of the Nationals. This person said the team had to install extra fencing and security at RFK because of some damage to cars. (No, not fan owned cars. Who cares about them.)

This person felt the new ballpark location wasn't a step up. I wasn't familiar DC and I didn't know about the "underground" scene. But now I see how that particular person might have reasoned it was a worse area.

"Jocks win" is too damn true.
posted by ?! at 7:17 AM on April 5, 2006

I had a lot of fun at Buzz. East Coast Science Volume 1 (freebie Dieselboy/Scott Henry mix tape handed out there) is still my all-time favorite mix. *pours the malt liquor*
posted by eddydamascene at 7:32 AM on April 5, 2006

I guess the trendy queens from the DC-area suburbs will have to drive all the way to Baltimore now. But please, stick to the Hippo; y'all really wouldn't like my favorite places (which to preserve their gritty authenticity I won't mention here).

And here in Louisville there's a major controversy over where to put the projected new sports arena that they hope will attract a pro team of some kind. I think it's a stupid idea: we already have UofL teams that already have adequate places to play (if you must do something spruce up Freedom Hall, fools), and coming from Baltimore I can testify that pro sports teams don't really improve the cities they trick into building stadia for them. If Louisvillains want to attract more money here y'all should serve a crying need: more and better gay bars!
posted by davy at 7:39 AM on April 5, 2006


Dieselboy's half of east coast science vol 1
posted by empath at 7:39 AM on April 5, 2006

Dieselboy's half of east coast science vol 1

HFS! that made my week.

Looking at those photos of the interior of Nation, I'm puzzled by the catwalk lining the main room... was Buzz originally in a different location, or was it completely renovated?
posted by eddydamascene at 7:56 AM on April 5, 2006

I hate to be the nay-sayer, but I always thought the clubs down there were dumps anyway, and not in the divey sorta way, just shit holes. And yes, I went to most of the ones mentioned. Somehow I'm not terribly saddened by the news that a former warehouse district and disused gravel pits (famous for Marion Barry's most recent drug arrest) are being converted into office space or that the abandoned shopping mall is being torn down.

That said, I would be thrilled if they would reopen up in my neck of the woods, Ward 5!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:57 AM on April 5, 2006

I hate to be the nay-sayer, but I always thought the clubs down there were dumps anyway, and not in the divey sorta way, just shit holes.

posted by Witty at 8:03 AM on April 5, 2006

eddy: yeah, in 1999, they added in catwalks to add a 2nd and 3rd floor.

Pollo/Witty: It was about the community, not the property.
posted by empath at 8:10 AM on April 5, 2006

yup...and they were a part of DC history. We lose clubs all the time here in NY, but you guys had a really long-lasting scene in that area. It was going to happen eventually, but it's sad.
posted by amberglow at 8:32 AM on April 5, 2006

I knew nothing good would come from MLB ripping the Expos from Montréal...."Jocks win" is too damn true.

Except for those who enjoy baseball/sports and don't have a grudge against jocks.

Besides, it's not jocks that bring a team to a new city and build a new ballpark. It's suits who wish they were jocks.
posted by justgary at 8:49 AM on April 5, 2006

Just to be cllarify though: Tracks didn't close because of the baseball stadium, that was a long time ago. Saw Bad Brains there once.

Still, for the others:

posted by poppo at 9:00 AM on April 5, 2006

DC has changed so much it's jawdropping... a friend of mine owned a 'short-stay/long-stay' hotel on Belmont Rd near Malcolm X park back in the late 80s/early 90s... to say that area was scary would be the understatement of the century (I worked behind the desk for a bit, and a cracked out hooker came in and bashed her face against the bulletproof glass until she was bloody because we refused to sell her more 40s... ahh, those were the days.)

Now? Folks walking strollers in Malcolm X Park, and that janky hotel has now become The Fedora Condos. I experienced a severe case of cognitive dissonance driving past that old hotel last summer...

I remember going to Tracks back in '93/'94 for their Saturday night ravey parties with Adam X (I think?) DJing... good times. Bad neighborhood, but good times.
posted by fet at 9:06 AM on April 5, 2006

The clubs were fun - but the area was a DUMP, and dangerous to boot.

I say doze it all and let the revitalization begin! New clubs will come... just give it time.
posted by matty at 10:02 AM on April 5, 2006

"Suits who wish they were jocks" Win

OK, I'll buy that, but it's still sad communities pony up all this land, dollars, and history for someone's toy. Then they can't even guarantee it stays. It's time to socialize baseball.

Davy: Connections isn't enough anymore? -- Louisville has been arguing about new stadiums since the Kentucky Colonels played in Freedom Hall and the Louisville Colonels played at the Fairgrounds. Pitino and the colleges have the power. The basketball facility will end up in that parcel of land between the football stadium and Eastern Parkway. (Especially now that they've destroyed an historic ball park to make way for more parking. (end Louisville derail)
posted by ?! at 3:00 PM on April 5, 2006

Um, Tracks was never "one of DC's first gay clubs". It only opened in 1985. When I moved to the DC area in 1984, the Lost and Found had been a longtime club fixture, and then there was the Pier, busy in the 70s, closed by the time I got there in the 80s...

And this is only counting dance clubs, much less other bars such as the peripatetic DC Eagle. And then there was that O-Street club (was it the Follies?) which had the fire which outed a bunch of Congressmen. Tales of times gone by...
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:47 PM on April 5, 2006

From a baseball perspective, RFK stadium is a horrible home at the moment. I'll look forward to a new stadium.
posted by Atreides at 6:36 AM on April 6, 2006

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