It’s rare that a nightclub can immediately become one of the crown jewels of a city, but U Street Music Hall is a rare nighclub. The brainchild of longtime D.C. DJs Will Eastman and Jesse Tittsworth, U Hall opened to much fanfare a year ago Thursday and immediately exceeded its lofty expectations. “Every decision we made emanated out in concentric circles from the music,” Eastman said, and that was quickly apparent. Everything from the simple layout (very limited seating, lots of room for dancing), a “no cameras” policy and the heavenly bass that quickly became the stuff of legend (and plenty of very breathless tweets) told you that this was a place by and for music lovers.
To celebrate U Hall’s first anniversary, after the jump you’ll find four standout moments from the past year. And as an added bonus, here’s a special mix made by Maxmillion Dunbar, the local mind-bending electronic producer who will perform live at U Hall Wednesday as part of monthly party The Whale. (More on that later.)Maxmillion Dunbar - New Age Daps Mix by Maxmillion Dunbar
U Hall has hosted all styles of electronic music, but it’s served as an incubator for one: moombahton. The D.C. born genre -- an onslaught of slow, bass-heavy assaults created by U Hall regular Dave Nada -- may or may not be the next electronic music craze. If it is, thank U Hall for offering it an early home. (For a primer on the genre, check out this recent City Paper story.) A pair of Moombahton Massive parties that collect the genre’s most famous names show that U Hall is a bastion for both emerging and veteran talent.
U Hall brings in all the hot young producers, but the bookers are also dedicated to the people who helped forge the genre in the first place. That’s never more evident than at Red Fridays, a tribute to the city’s much-beloved, until-the-early-morning house music night at the now-closed club Red. The weekly event has featured Derrick Carter, Jellybean Benitez, Francois K, King Britt and Sam “The Man” Burns, D.C.’s resident house music master. The majority of Red Fridays are free before 11 p.m. Simply put, you won’t be shelling out much for admission to U Hall. Free shows abound, and cover charges rarely top the $10 mark.
U Hall is a destination spot for its monthly events alone — Bliss, Trouble & Bass, Nouveau Riche, to name a few. One of our favorites that flies slightly under the radar is The Whale, which features DJ sets from local duo Beautiful Swimmers. They spin body music/cosmic disco/‘80s boogie that’s meant for dancing. The serene weeknight dance party is different from the line-down-the-block, party-until-you-puke weekend scene. When random people aren’t invading your personal space, there’s room to dance and feel the glorious thump of the bass reverberate through your body. Plus, it’s always free and regularly has standout guests (tonight features a live performance by Maxmillion Dunbar and guest set from Chicago house DJ Ron Morelli).
Standout live shows
The club only hosts a few live performances per month — it’s designed for DJs, after all — but a few of these shows are already going down in the history books. A June live performance by Pantha du Prince was a great showcase for the full power of U Hall’s sound system. The German producer’s layered creations are filled with small auditory details and each one sounded perfect. An October performance by local go-go standouts UCB -- featuring special guest Wale -- was the best that Post pop music critic Chris Richards saw in the club during its first year. And in February, upstart L.A. rap group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All played a sold-out show that could be the stuff of legend if the group’s current buzz turns into mainstream success.