WASHINGTON – Fifteen years after it closed its doors, the musicians who played and the fans who enjoyed them, returned to the site of The Bayou, on K Street, under the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown.
The occasion: A preview screening of “The Bayou: DC’s Killer Joint,” a documentary by local filmmakers Dave Lilling, Bill Scanlan, Vinnie Perrone and Adam Bonsib, set to premiere Feb. 25 on Maryland Public Television.
The film was shown at AMC Loews, a few doors down from where The Bayou stood.
“I’ve been to The Bayou many times. I don’t recognize it — it’s totally reconfigured,” jokes Mark Noone, singer of Slickee Boys.
The movie recounts Noone’s recollection of a show March 3, 1981.
“We had some band from Ireland that was going to open for us. We didn’t know anything about them. Nobody knew anything about them,” says Noone.
The opening band was U2, in its first American concert.
“The night before they did a private showcase gig in New York, but their first open-to-the-public show in America was opening for the Slickee Boys,” says Noone.
One of the most popular bands at The Bayou was The Nighthawks, known for their blues and roots music.
Nighthawks bass player Jan Zukowski recalled The Bayou as a musician’s nightclub, “The premier nightclub in the whole area to play.”
Zukowski remembered the club’s sound, lighting systems and high stage, which promoted an intimate connection with the audience.
“They had the balcony that went around. It was incredible, especially when it was packed — oh, my lord, what a feeling,” Zukowski said.
Producer Dave Lilling described one of the most bittersweet moments in the film — the final performance by Eva Cassidy, the Maryland singer who died of cancer at 33.
Weeks before her death, Cassidy was honored at The Bayou by the Recording Industry Association of America.
“She was very ill. Everybody knew she was very ill. She came onto the stage on a walker. She had the wherewithal to perform two songs — ‘Red Top,’ with Chuck Brown, and ‘What a Wonderful World,’ which is of course here signature song.
Six weeks later, Cassidy died.
The documentary has been 14 years in the making.
“It’s a real labor of love,” Lilling says, noting filmmakers are $30,000 in the hole for production costs.
“We just wanted to get it finished,” says Lilling.
“The Bayou: DC’s Killer Joint” premieres Monday, Feb. 25, at 9 p.m. on Maryland Public Television.