WASHINGTON — Tickets went quick to the 9:30 Club World’s Fair anniversary celebration, even after extra free tickets were made available for the event Tuesday-Saturday.
But if you’d like to join the celebration, you can still grab tickets to the closing night party, just announced with a special guest DJ Bob Mould. Tickets cost $9.30. How fitting.
The event marks a double anniversary: 35 years in D.C. and 20 years at its current location.
The original 9:30 Club opened in May of 1980 at 930 F Street NW — hence the name.
The current location opened at 815 V St. in January of 1996.
Realizing it had a double anniversary on its hands, the club decided to celebrate museum style.
“When I was a kid, I used to go to the World’s Fair. I went to New York and Montreal and it was always exciting. You’d go in these buildings and you’d get sent through these pathways and different audio and visual things at each turn. … I wanted to try to do that for people and have them learn about the history of the club and have fun while they’re doing it and surprise them,” Hurwitz says.
So, Hurwitz and company created an immersive experience.
“I thought of like a fun house, a walk-through of someone’s nightmare version of the club. Just kind of a fantasy, a labyrinth. You won’t recognize the club. You get sent at the bottom and up and down the stairs, and it tells the story of the old club and how it turned into the new club and moved,” he says.
The event is truly interactive with backstage tours of the dressing room and the stage itself.
“One of the things I saw last night that people seemed really excited about was going in the dressing room and checking that out. We put out the hair dryer we had to get for James Brown,” he says.
You can even get a free 9:30 Club tattoo by a real tattoo artist.
“If you would like to have the 9:30 Club on yourself permanently, we’d like to give it to you.”
There is also a special “Hall of Records” of all of the acts to play there over the decades — displayed in chronological order. That includes some of Herwitz’s favorites, from global icons like Bob Dylan and Deep Purple, to local favorites like Trouble Funk and Thievery Corporation.
“It was created for the World’s Fair, but we’re going to keep it as a permanent exhibition,” he says.
You can also grab the commemorative book “9:30 — A Time and a Place,” a must-have for those who remember the club in its earliest years. The book even devotes a section to the signature smell the old club was known for. It is also a great read for any music lover and casual fan of either venue.
“The idea was a coffee-table book, but I wanted a book that people would actually read and not just flip through it and put it on their table there. So we really went through every page and tried to make it entertaining and interesting and have funny and unusual stories and cool pictures,” he says.
Written from the point of view of those that were there, it’s more like a scrapbook, chock full of never-seen-before pictures and memorabilia, plus an oral history from current and former staff, local and national musicians who frequented the club, and notable fans from the D.C. area.
It can be hard to understand how universally loved a venue is when it’s in your own city and easily accessible. However, by thumbing through the book, one can see just how important the 9:30 Club is to not only the D.C. music scene, but to the national/international music scene as well.
WTOP contributor Clinton Yates writes in the book: “The national attention is an interesting thing because I grew up here and was lucky enough to go to the club on F Street. When that Rolling Stone story came out, naming it the ‘best big room in America,’ I was stunned. Not because I didn’t believe it, but because when a place is in your proverbial backyard, it can be tough to gain perspective.”
Also included is a comprehensive list of every act to ever play the club, as well as a poignant memorial to the man known as That Guy at the 9:30 Club, staffer Josh Burdette who passed away in 2013.
“Josh was this huge, scary-looking dude with all kinds of piercings and tattoos and what not, but then when you talked to him, he was the nicest, smartest guy you’ll ever meet. Very calm and sensible. I loved how people totally misjudged him by what he looked like, and then they found out who he was. … He kind of represented us in that he strived to be different … but he retained the best of values.”
“Josh was a great example of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.'”
Only with this commemorative book — and its 3D cover — we absolutely can.
It’s one-of-a-kind. It’s dripping with memories. And it’s undeniably historic.
Listen below to the full interview with 9:30 Club co-owner Seth Hurwitz:
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