As the 9:30 Club celebrates 35 years in DC and 20 years at its current location, our DC Volunteer Team Leader Chris Reed reflects back on his 12 years of attending shows at this legendary DC venue
The music scene in DC begins and ends at Nightclub 9:30 (also known as the 9:30 Club to pretty much everyone). Last week the historic club celebrated a double anniversary – 35 years in DC and 20 years in its current location. Having been in DC for only 12 years myself, I never experienced the famous rats nor the “familiar aroma” that many refer to with nostalgia when discussing the original location at 930 F St. I have only known the club in its current 815 V St incarnation. However, in the decade of being a loyal patron, I have seen some amazing things and had some of my most memorable evenings there.
I remember the first show I attended at the club very vividly. Being my first time up in the V St neighborhood, I worried about whether or not my car would still be where I parked it after the show. I remember walking up to the door and being intimidated by a stern bouncer who rivaled me in size and stature but had more tattoos and facial piercings than I had ever seen on one body. And most of all, I remember entering the club and forgetting all my worries and having an amazing evening filled with live music. The show happened to be The Killers on October 3, 2004. The ticket was a whopping $12.
A few months later, I had one my most memorable experiences to date when The Arcade Fire played the club. I do not remember how many members were in the band at the time but I swear there were a lot more than six of them up there in one of the craziest performances I have seen. Band members were scaling the towers of speakers while others donned football helmets and banged out percussion beats on each other’s heads. It was raucous, rough, yet amazing, and everyone left that show knowing that they would never get to see that band again for $12. (Not all shows were $12 back then, but I had some pretty good luck that first year with $12 shows!)
Once the concert addiction took hold, I couldn’t stop. Other notable shows in the past decade include James Brown, Tracy Chapman, The Beastie Boys, The Black Keys, Edward Sharpe and too many others to ever list. The new permanent exhibit in the club, The Official Hall of Records, will give you a good idea of every band that has played since the opening in 1980 and I was at a lot of them after that first day in October, 2004.
In those early days, I incurred serious debt going to shows on a weekly basis. While the tickets were cheaper back then, government workers did not make a lot of pocket money at the beginnings of their careers. In the summer of 2008, I took a weekend job selling hot dogs on the Mall to pay for my concert addiction. I have no doubt that many 9:30 patrons were unfortunate enough to end up standing next to me wearing my “Eau de Oscar Meyer” that summer. Then I found HeadCount.
Joining HeadCount, I knew I would get to go to a few more shows and see some bands I would not normally experience. However, it also allowed me to work with the amazing staff of this awesome venue and create a residency that puts us in front of live music fans on a regular basis. My team averages about a show a week. We have a special spot back in the corner. I have seen many staff members come and go over the years and I guarantee you that my team can answer the three most asked questions just as well as anyone on the staff.
“Where’s the bathroom?” “Right there.” (Our table is about 12 feet from it)
“How do you get upstairs?” “Go up the stairs by the front door.”
“Where’s the ATM?” “In the basement.”
Then there is this winter favorite, “Coat check is full. Will you hold my coat?” We usually avoid the most obvious reply of “depends on how much money you left in the pocket,” and offer a polite “no” instead.
After 12 years, 9:30 Club is my home away from home. I can attend a festival anywhere in the country and will see at least one person sporting the signature black T-shirt emblazoned with the stark white logo. It reminds me of home and that what we have here is special. I look forward to the next chapter in the history of the club and cherish every night I get to spend there.
Happiest of anniversaries to my favorite place in DC and here’s to the next 35!