On Wednesday evening, the D.C. Music Salon screened an unreleased documentary on the eclectic musical past of the city’s popular venue, the 9:30 Club.
The documentary, titled “9:30 F Street” after the club’s original location, featured interviews with owners, fans, employees and musicians reflecting on the venue’s days as a home for the alternative rock-and-roll scene in the 1980s.
During this period, D.C., a traditionally professional town, came alive as the 9:30 Club supported the New-Wave, artistic and punk-rock music movements. It provided an intimate underground setting for smaller bands, like Minor Threat, Fugazi, Tiny Desk Unit and Bad Brains, to grow alongside fans.
“There was a complete embracement of what at that time was a subculture,” the club’s manager Norm Veenstra said in the film.
At concerts hosted in the original 9:30 Club building, fans and performers shared a 1,600-square-foot space, and the crowds mingled directly next to the stage.
“[This was] back when you could be a smaller band and still had a place to play,” said Jeff Gaul, one the directors of “9:30 F Street.”
Several of the bands that performed at the club during its early years went on to enjoy widespread success and fame. R.E.M., which gained notoriety for its songs “Orange Crush” and “Losing My Religion,” played 18 shows at the 9:30 Club before moving on to larger gigs.
Part of the film centered on the 9:30’s status as a popular place for alternative D.C. youth.
People of all ages were permitted entrance. Fans under the drinking age were required to mark the back of their hands with black X’s, a strategy that many of today’s 18-and-over clubs still use.
Gaul and co-director Tarik Dahir, who themselves attended the 9:30 as teenagers, said the club had a unique feel.
“[The place] was kind of scary,” Gaul said. “You had a feeling that you were someplace unfamiliar.”
“9:30 F Street” also outlined the venue’s 1996 move to its present location at 815 V St. NW.
The 9:30 Club still functions as an all-age, live concert venue. While the concert space is much larger, fans, most of who range from ages 18 to 25, remain close to the music.
Jane Xie (SFS ’14) has gone to three concerts at the new 9:30 Club and plans to attend more.
“The setup of the 9:30 Club feels like a college concert venue compared to all the other ones I have been to,” she said. “The layout makes it really easy to get into the music and with the band.”
In recent years the Club has attracted an increasing number of developed, high-profile bands, such as Jimmy Eat World and My Chemical Romance, according to the film.
Members of the 9:30 community, past and present, offered support for the documentary project, which began in 2002. “9:30 F Street” enjoyed success on the film festival circuit and its creators hope to release it once all rights are secured, the directors said during their presentation of the film.