CoS Exclusive FeaturesInterviews

All Access: An Oral History of DC’s 9:30 Club

on May 19, 2014, 12:00am
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Walking through Washington, D.C. is akin to walking through a museum. You’d be hard-pressed to find another city in the U.S. that’s colored more vividly with history, be it the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall, the ceaseless light of the Eternal Flame, or the literal homestead of democracy that is the White House. But the city’s rich history extends beyond textbook fodder and tourist attractions. It also exists in its proud and thriving music scene, at the center of which stands a venue that has fostered and nurtured countless bands large and small over the course of 34 years and two locations.

The 9:30 Club isn’t just another cavernous dungeon through which bands aimlessly drift in and out night after night. It’s the nucleus of the DC music community and an institution that’s widely recognized as the gold standard of rock clubs. While so many rock clubs fall haphazardly into the “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” category, the 9:30 Club, from its humble origins catering to the city’s bustling punk community to its current standing as a world-class rock venue, always strived for something different.

When other venues thumbed their noses at all-ages shows, the 9:30 Club opened its doors to kids. When other venues were overlooking so-called “alternative” acts, the 9:30 Club were early supporters of many bands that would eventually give rise to the alternative rock boom of the early ’90s. The 9:30 staff consistently positioned itself ahead of the curve, and it continues to do so today.

So, how did they get here? We reached out to a handful of artists, writers, club owners, and DC insiders, as well as 9:30 Club staffers themselves, to get the full story behind one of the most celebrated rock clubs in the U.S.

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hnkqgeeu@gmail.com
June 9, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Where To Get cheap authentic Knicks jerseys

Angel Xyra
May 27, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Unknownst to some, I was in great part responsible for booking the first Punk shows at the old 9:30 club. Being a DJ at WGTB (1977-79), the first DJ at the 9:30, and editor in chief of Capitol Crisis, I convinced then owner Dodie and John Bowers to put on the first no age shows with Minor Threat and others on a Sunday afternoon. This was WAY before “Banned In DC”, from which I was carefully omitted, and Cynthia Connally were on the scene. It would be nice and ethical to set the record straight, ONCE AND FOR ALL! There comes a point when the truth must be told and the old guard honored!!!

Sincerely, Xyra Harper (Cann)

Angel Xyra
May 27, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Unknownst to some, I was in great part responsible for booking the first Punk shows at the old 9:30 club. Being a DJ at WGTB (1977-79) and editor in chief of Capitol Crisis, I convinced then owner Dodie and John Bowers to put on the first no age shows with Minor Threat and others on a Sunday afternoon. This was WAY before “Banned In DC”, from which I was carefully omitted, and Cynthia Connally were on the scene. It would be nice and ethical to set the record straight, ONCE AND FOR ALL! There comes a point when the truth must be told and the old guard honored!!!

Sincerely, Xyra Harper (Cann)

Angel Xyra
May 27, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Unknownst to some, I was in great part responsible for booking the first Punk shows at the old 9:30 club. Being a DJ at WGTB (1977-79) and editor in chief of Capitol Crisis, I convinced then owner Dodie and John Bowers to put on the first no age shows with Minor Threat and others on a Sunday afternoon. This was WAY before Banned on DC, from which I was carefully omitted and Cynthia Connally were on the scene. It would be nice and ethical to set the record straight, ONCE AND FOR ALL! There comes a point when the truth must be told and the old guard honored!!!

Sincerely, Xyra Harper (Cann)

wizardgarber
May 25, 2014 at 12:39 am

BTW. It was “Access All Areas.” Not All Access. I still have my 9:30 Club staff tee that said ACCESS ALL AREAS on the back.

Anonymous
May 23, 2014 at 8:24 am

Ok

mejarc
May 20, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Anybody else remember the temporary design scheme of “Fifties sock hop!” around 1985 or so? Seriously, there was a brief moment when the walls in the main room were not painted black, but rather with cartoons of bobby soxers.

Kate
May 20, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I loved this club. I was a student at GWU. The first time I was taken by an English DJ from the fifth column club opposite the 9.30. We saw Nirvana play. For an 18 year old student that was a big deal and my introduction away from the comfort of the radio and into the frying pan!

Nelson CEO
May 20, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Gotta see for my last show at Old 930 Corrosion of Conformity and as one can imagine it was totally out of hand. BTW in DC (Old 930 v New 930) is a marker in the sand — as one either know about it or had gone or they didn’t.

webbarbie
May 20, 2014 at 5:05 am

Cynthia Connelly wrote, One of my favorite shows at the 9:30 Club, I think it was July 1981, was Minor Threat, G.I., and Youth Brigade. It was a moment where we made fliers and fliered the show, but we were kind of wondering who the hell was going to come to this.” The answer is all the people that were into punk in DC and ready. The people that were following Black Market Baby, Tex Rubinowitz, The Razz and The Slickee Boys. The people who went to The Bayou to see Stiff Little Fingers. The people that went to Yesterday and Today to buy ANYTHING local and punk. The people that went to the Ontario theatre, the Wilson Center, Madam’s Organ. The people playing punk on WMUC at U. of MD. The “New Wave” nights at One Flight Up that played stuff you couldn’t hear anywhere else. We were all ready. We all came.

Alice
May 19, 2014 at 8:15 pm

This is article is incredibly interesting. I’m in high school nearby and it’s excellent to be able to go to concerts at such an truly-excellent venue–My parents have been going for ages and I’ve been twice, as has my younger sister. We saw Cracker with CVB and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club with Bass Drum of Death. As a kid/teen, you don’t feel out of place and the atmosphere is wonderful, but 9:30 is completely steeped in history, which, as far as I’m concerned, only adds to the allure.

Tyler
May 19, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Reblogged this on Sonic Geography and commented:
This is so cool. I’ve gone on record so many times about DC’s inextricable role (greater, I’d argue, than any other city) in underground music history. The 9:30 Club was always a key part of that. Even before I moved there, I’d heard stories about this club, and getting to see my first few shows there (Pennywise with Sick of It All and M.I.A. with Spank Rock, for the record) was an adolescent dream come true. My roommate at the time even got me backstage as his guitar tech that December (which is another story entirely). My own memories of the 9:30 Club are pretty deep and varied, and I’m not even a blip on this place’s radar. Here’s an oral history that CoS put together with most of the major icons and game-changers who helped make the club what it was.

Chris Gardner
May 19, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Even Thomas Pynchon gave a nod to the 930 in his latest novel. A character wears a perfume based on the legendary back bar smell.

Kim
May 19, 2014 at 8:33 pm

oh, god… that smell! I remember, however, when it was called the Capitol Club, and everything was white, not black, before Dody and husband bought it.

wizardgarber
May 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Now I will have to get the Thomas Pynchon book. Would that be Bleeding Edge? I worked at the 9:30 club in the eighties and I don’t recall that about the Capitol Club. All accounts were that it had been called the Atlantis before.

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