The Washington Post magazine recently printed a brief piece on the 9:30 Club entitled “Rock Legend Misfits, New Wave icons and Giant Rats: A History of D.C.’s 9:30 Club.” Writer Freedom Du Lac never really captured why the original (rest in pieces) small venue was so-cool during the punk scene so I felt compelled to add more.
When my friend Ian (MacKaye) of Minor Threat offered my band Government Issue the opportunity to play the club’s first hardcore Matinee on a Sunday afternoon, we jumped at that shit! Both G.I. and Scream not only put the headliners (Discharge U.K.) to shame musically, we played so loud that our angry noise could be heard over a one-man play next door at the historical Ford’s Theater. The kind of thing that does a punk proud! I was also lucky enough to see a few of the other daytime shows like the phenomenal Bad Brains and they were stage-dive heaven for me.
The club that originally never wanted to book us young punk rock groups became THE place to be. At the time I thought the owner Dodi Desanto was a bit snobby because she never really welcomed the presence of a bunch of cocky rude punk kids who acted like we owned the place but we were pretty obnoxious towards her. It was many years later when I worked the door of a club that I saw what a pain in the ass that could be. I could only imagine how stressful owning a place could be. I sure wouldn’t want to take on that kind of responsibility.
Everyone who’s ever spoken about 9:30 always brings up 3 things: 1. The smell! (ciggarette smoke and beer funk seeped into the floor and walls); 2. The Rats! (industrial strength creatures who roamed from the alleys to the inside of the dressing rooms) and 3. That fucking pole in front of the right side of the stage! (I accidentally banged my head into it during slam-dancing and swung upon it on-stage—I loved that pole!) The biggest thing people neglect to mention is that (the old) 9:30 club had a VIBE and that’s something the new venue doesn’t have. Sure it’s much cleaner, nicer, bigger, and serves far better food but it ain’t the same, kids.
After a year or 2 of doing gigs at the club, the doormen started to let me in to many a show for free! Being a Punk Rock star sure has it’s perks-ha! And the staff were cool folks just to rap with. One of the most amusing moments happened one night where doorman/Peach of Immortality front-man Jared Henrickson was all kinds of pissed off with an unknown patron in the place for parking his vehicle in the back alley. That area was always used just for the staff and band folks to load in/out. So Jared gets on the D.J.’s mic and says in a really annoyed tone, “Whoever parked your car in the back alley and isn’t a band member, if you don’t move it now, I’m going to eat it!”
Also I wasn’t drinking anything but juice and water back then but you couldn’t help but want to hang by the back bar to admire the (as my friend Alice said it so perfectly) “Gorgeous Amazon” that was Alyson Palmer of the group, Betty. Not only awesome to look upon but a real sweetheart of a person. That club was the best!
Man, I sure hope that someone cranks out a book on the old 9:30 club – anyone out there listening?
John Stabb was the frontman for the legendary harDCore punk outfit Government Issue.
When not blogging for BLURT, he currently serves as frontman for
Sleeper Agent. Check them out at http://www.myspace.com/sleeperagentdc