The 9:30 Club: Bigger on the Inside
It is easy to miss the 9:30 Club in the dead of night. Washington’s famous nightclub is a plain, square faced building that one could easily mistake for an old factory if it weren’t for the line of people snaked out the front door. Though, anyone heading there to see a concert will know that there is much more going on behind the bricks.
Upon entering, besides being greeted by a ticket scanner and two very large hand stamps, you are immediately drawn into the small front lobby. Walking away from the door’s white fluorescent lights, one can begin to see the dark grunge look that most city venues have. Advertisements and signs for upcoming tours line a perfectly arranged bulletin board on the left, and those still lingering in the front pass glances at the dates. As a concert goer running late, I rushed into the darkness towards the stage so my time in the lobby was cut short.
When talking about the club, Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump said, “It’s got so much character, you wonder if the locals know how lucky they are,” and that statement could not be more true (Rolling Stone 2013). The club itself is a lot bigger than one might expect, hosting a huge floor and a decent sized stage that I later found out is movable (DeTogne 2011). As I walked in, I unknowingly did one of those cliche 360 degree spins to take everything in. With a capacity of 1,200, you would expect to feel lost in a swaying sea of tightly packed people, yet there is plenty of room to spare (Rolling Stone 2013). Above the main space is a second level that surrounds the room on three sides with a high balcony, providing the perfect overlooking view for those perched on one of the many seats. On both sides sat dimly lit bars with rows of bottles and bartenders mixing drinks while the back hosted the merch stand and chatty groups leaning against the wall. Directly up front, around one hundred eager fans had begun pressing themselves up against the barricade, trying to get the best view possible. I, of course, joined them, settling into a spot in the middle.
While times seems to move the slowest at the hour before a concert, there is a certain electricity in the air that is contagious in smaller, intimate venues like the 9:30 Club. With smooth jazz playing in the background (an odd choice that the audience of millennials constantly complained about), people talked amongst themselves in excited voices and took group selfies while the crews finished setting up the stage. The testing of lights and instruments brought on a wave of screams, only to be silenced again by realizing the wait was not over.
There is something special about concert venues because they act as a gathering space and facilitating entity. That night at the 9:30 Club, a thousand people united at one place for one reason only: to see a band play. The club provided a vessel for which the band could share their art and the crowd could consume it. When you go there, you are living future music history. Bob Dylan, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, and even NPR alls have history embedded in the walls of the club (Wikipedia 2016). So, as the lights went down and the LA based band, LANY, stepped on the stage to perform, one question remained in our minds: what history will we witness here tonight?
“9:30 Club.” Wikipedia, October 22, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=9:30_Club&oldid=745625386.
“9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.” Rolling Stone, April 25, 2013. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-best-big-rooms-in-america-20130425/9-30-club-in-washington-d-c-19691231.
DeTogne, Greg. “Live Sound: Staple Of The Circuit: Inside The System At D.C.‘s 9:30 Club – Pro Sound Web.” ProSoundWeb, January 17, 2011. http://www.prosoundweb.com/article/print/the_staple_of_the_circuit.