The awesome 930 Club here in DC turned 30 on Monday and to celebrate, it had a big ol' birthday party with a bunch of bands who played for free. It was a great celebration of all of the acts that helped put the 930 on the map as a club, as well as a great peek into the long string of bands that that came out of DC, many of whom owe their start in music because of the 930 Club. This history of the club is a great story and one that the Washington Post did an oral history of awhile back (definitely worth the read).
I had to miss the first couple of acts of the evening, Tiny Desk Units, who was the first band to ever grace the 930 Club stage back when it was on 930 F Street, The Fleshtones, the very first band then-independent promoter/now 930 Club owner Seth Hurwitz booked at the old location, and The Slickee Boys, the "the punk-psychedelic punk rock band may very well hold the all-time record of most times playing the 9:30 Club with 79 appearances." Sets were running about 15 minutes a piece so I did get there in time to catch the last song of Marti Jones & Don Dixon, which D.C.’s late, great alternative station, WHFS, helped break. Hurwitz sat in on drums for both the Jones/Dixon set, as well as The Fleshtones.
We were only allowed to shoot the first song of each set, and though I missed those bands, I'm really glad I got there in time for my first shots of the night to be of the great Tommy Keene.
This was my first time seeing him live and just...wow. Keene's biggest influence is said to be the 60s power pop band, The Raspberries and it shows, his songs are just so wonderfully uber hooky! Keene has worked with the likes of Paul Westerberg, and most recently, Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices. He's been an influence to tons of bands, whether they know it or not. If you haven't listened to his stuff yet, you absolutely should make your next purchase one of his.
There wasn't really a formal schedule of acts anywhere, but folks in the know around me were saying I should get upstairs in the balcony because the next act, The Evens, was going to play there. The balcony, really?? Kind of hard to imagine this setup upon first knowledge, but then Evens guitarist/singer Ian MacKaye has always been one to think outside the lines.
That's right, it was that Ian MacKaye, of Fugazi and Minor Threat, the rough and tumble hardcore punk bands, and his wife, drummer Amy Farina. Playing lovely harmonic songs that have simple but bursting melodies and hooks. Not at all what I expected, but I loved it. It's not aurally thrashing like "Waiting Room," and no, you can't slam dance to it. But it is still punk rock: utterly minimal and lovely yet still stripped down and strong.
And they played their set in the damn balcony like it was their living room! If that ain't punk rock, I dunno what is.
Henry Rollins was supposed to be the evening's MC but his plane had been delayed. So Hurwitz and Josh Burdette, the iconic 930-night manager (below), stepped up in the interim to introduce the next act.
Of all the acts of the evening, probably the youngest was Justin Jones. Jones' musicial style is in an alt-country vein with a side of Springsteen. He and his band, The Driving Rain, are mainstays in local DC-area clubs.
Around this time, I happened to glance over the backstage area and lo and behold...Rollins in the house!
Rollins, MacKaye, and Bob Mould stood in the sidestage area for a bit and it was an almost-comical contest amongst the photographers as to who could catch the best shot of all of them together (tough, as a ton of folks were milling about).
Rollins came onstage to a loud wave of shouts and cheers. He first apologized for his delay (flight issues), then went on to introduce Mould. Rollins spoke of Mould's history and amazing chameleon musical changes from punk (Husker Du), to pop (Sugar), to pro-wrestling scriptwriter, to dance music (Mould's Blowoff DJ nights have been a 930-club staple for years now). Rollins also said that Mould has an auto-biography coming out next spring!!
Mould's long been a huge favorite of mine so his set was one I was most looking forward to (favorite living-in-DC story: I ran into Mould once at the meat counter of the local Whole Foods- yes, I totally dorked out, and yes, he was totally nice).
The man still rips up an electric guitar like no one else, tearing up tracks like "See a Little Light" and "Hoover Dam." His acoustic tour back in the early 90s was the first show I saw as an undergrad, and I obtained a whole new appreciation for his songs. To this day, I'm still trying to find an acoustic version of "Hardly Getting Over It."
Following Mould is hard if you're anyone, but Ted Leo gave it a hell of a try.
His set was interesting, and he pulled out a song that he wrote "back when I lived up in Mount Pleasant," a DC-neighborhood, "and haven't played it in as many years." His voice let out towards the end of it but he soldiered on. He twittered throughout the night about the show, and about his set, he said "Hey - thank you for your kind tweets about my set - sorry my voice crapped out - fatigue, et al. 'Twas fun though, & I'm honored to be here."
Rumors abounded since the show's announcement last week as to whether DC-native/club owner/VA property owner Dave Grohl would be appearing. And, as Rollins' said in his intro, "Well sports fans I have an answer for you, and that answer is yes, yes, yes." As you can imagine, the place went nuts.
Grohl went into a solo version of "Everlong," which was nice. However, the reunion with his first band Scream for the rest of the set is what blew the house down, because a) it was Scream, and b) they were doing covers of fellow DC-band The Bad Brains. Thank God for earplugs because the 930 crowd went ballistic.
The last band I stayed for was The Pietasters. Ska was a big part of DC music back in the day, so having the 'Tasters play was an obvious choice. Perfect music for a summer night.
I couldn't stick around for the final bands, Clutch and Trouble Funk, but all accounts said they were just as great. Chris Richards from the Washington Post, did a great write up on the show with details that you should read (he even namechecked yours truly!!!)
All in all, it was a thrilling night to capture. The 930 Club is a super special place to a lot of people for a lot of reasons, and consistently remains the best place anywhere to see a show. If you ever get to DC, do not miss an opportunity to visit. It may not be made of marble and packed with tourists, but make no mistake, the 930 Club is just as much of a DC-monument as anything along the National Mall. Happy 30th 930 Club, and here's to many more!