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Listening to the Fall Of the 9:30 Club

Eric Brace
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 18 1997; Page N12

THE FINAL WEEKS at the 9:30 club's old F Street NW location at the very end of 1995 were pretty loony, particularly the last few nights. People were chiseling souvenirs off the walls even as the groups on stage were trying to put on the show to end all shows. The club had booked bands from out of its past to close this chapter, and looking at the schedule that December, Adelphi Records' Gene Rosenthal wondered if the club was documenting the occasion.

"It was a week before Christmas when I heard they weren't recording those shows, so I asked if I could," says Rosenthal. "I just couldn't believe it wasn't being documented." His pal Larry Packer of Uncle Punchy Studios installed himself and his audio gear in the club's basement, and in its final nights he caught on tape locally based acts like Tiny Desk Unit, Tru Fax & the Insaniacs, Urban Verbs, Black Market Baby, the Insect Surfers and Mother May I, some of which had long since broken up and were regrouping just for that show. Performances by each of those bands make up the new Adelphi double-CD release, "9:30 -- A Time, a Place, a Scene," which features extensive notes on the bands and on the club itself.

"Some of these guys were my heroes in the same way John Coltrane and Mississippi John Hurt are my heroes, and for years they'd been playing extraordinary music," says Rosenthal. "I'm proud to be putting out their music."

Lisa White, who's been booking local bands into the 9:30 club (old and new) for years, has bittersweet memories of those last days, but is glad to have these recordings: "I was listening to it, and with all the music and the sounds of the audience, it really takes me right back there. I'm standing in that room, in that smell. It's hot and sweaty, and I'm loving it."

Ah, that smell. Too bad the CD booklet isn't scratch-n-sniff. Perhaps Boyd Farrell, lead singer for Black Market Baby, can help explain the club's distinct odor: "For years I was hanging out in there every weekend. I'd pretty much gotten ill in every corner of the club." Black Market Baby had played at the old Atlantis club in the late '70s, before its transformation into the 9:30 club, where BMB logged several dozen shows, including a set on closing night. "It was our second home," Farrell says. "We'd go play all over the country but we'd always be glad to come back to the 9:30."

There's a party Sunday night for "9:30 -- A Time, a Place, a Scene" at the new 9:30 club (the V Street NW one with better sound, smells and sightlines but a touch less character). The CD (which lists for $24) will be available, and Farrell will be there, of course, on stage with Black Market Baby. Also scheduled to perform are Tru Fax & the Insaniacs, a spinoff of the Insect Surfers called the Insect Surfer Starship, a version of Urban Verbs called the Abbreviated Verbs, and a set featuring Mother May I singer-guitarist Damon Hennessey.

To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8116. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)


Another local nightclub has put its name on a CD compilation, but this one is a look into the future rather than a glimpse of the past. "Bumper to Bumper Hits, Vol. 1: The Galaxy Hut Compilation" is the result of a collaboration between the cozy Arlington bar Galaxy Hut and Mark Hausherr of Gum Angel Productions.

"Mark approached me with the idea of a compilation, since he'd been recording a lot of the same bands I was booking to play the club, bands that didn't have a record contract, and I thought it would work perfectly," says Galaxy Hut owner Alice Despard. "This was a way of pulling them all together under an umbrella, with the umbrella being the Hut."

The 20-track CD fea-tures local bands 5 State Drive, Yuma House, yogaberry, Chutes & Ladders, Daisyhaze, Raised by Wolves, Space Cossacks, Jonny Cohen's Love Machine, Yukon Cornelius and Despard's own Whirligig (now called Baker Man). They join area solo artists Ian Kaplan, Dana Cerick, Kat Chandler and Kevin Enochs on this excellent sampling of Washington's left-of-center guitar pop. Also on the disc is a performance by Richmond's Burst Into Flames, a band that regularly makes the trip to Arlington to play.

"There are so many great bands in the mid-Atlantic," says Despard, "in Delaware, North Carolina, Pennsylvania. On the next CD I really want to have more out-of-town bands, so first I'll be booking more of them into the club. If they're willing to drive here just to play the Hut, I want them on the next CD." Next CD? "Sure, this is just volume one. I'd like to expand it concentrically out from Washington, so that at the same time I'm giving bands an outlet for their music, I'm helping define the Hut, the kind of music you'll find here on a given night. This CD -- with its music, its cover art, its liner notes -- is like a little snapshot of what's happening at Galaxy Hut."

Friday through Monday, the Galaxy Hut will throw a CD release party each night with performances by several of the groups found on the record. For the nightly schedules, see Weekend's nightclub listings or call the club at 703/525-8646.

The CD will be available at the club for a mere $5 and soon, for probably a little more, at local record stores. For a free Sound Bite, press 8117.


From this Monday through April 27, more than 100 musical acts will perform at 21 area nightclubs, showing that the Washington music scene has a sense of community. It's the Washington Area Music Association's 12th annual Crosstown Jam, which, besides raising awareness for WAMA and Washington musicians, also raises money for area charities: This year's recipients are Ayuda (a Latino group aiding victims of domestic violence), My Sister's Place and nonprofit jazz and public affairs radio station WPFW-FM.

Now into its second decade, the WAMA Jam continues to evolve, and WAMA President Michael Schreibman sees it changing even more in the future. He says that though it didn't start out as a music industry conference (like Austin's South by Southwest or New York's CMJ Convention), it could evolve into one: "We have talked about holding the Jam at one location, like the Convention Center, and having lots of stages going at the same time," says Schreibman. "In that case it would probably evolve into a conference, but that depends on the availablity of finances and the availability of a site. I really like the idea though."

But that would remove one of the central pleasures of the Jam: club-hopping. From jazz at Takoma Station to punk at Phantasmagoria to hip-hop at State of the Union to country at Twist & Shout, the venues are as distinct as their musical offerings. You can purchase an "all event" pass for $17.50 from Protix (703/218-6500; service charges added) that lets you into every showcase, as well as into the invitation-only kickoff party Sunday night at the Ritz. For the money, there's no better way to sample the area scene. For performance details on the Jam, call 202/338-1134, or visit The Washington Post's site on the World Wide Web: www.washingtonpost.com

WAMA is also putting together a CD (with the sponsoring help of radio station DC-101) to feature area "alternative" rock bands, scheduled to be released in the fall, then sent to music industry bigwigs, radio stations and other media.

The organization hopes in later months to release CDs featuring local jazz and urban contemporary musicians. For details on submitting tapes for consideration, call 202/338-1134.


Daytime tapings of live jazz concerts for later broadcast on BET's program "Jazz Central" begin on May 12, and the cable channel is looking for a few good studio audience members. Because of contract small print, BET can't say who's scheduled to perform, but the names are promised to be big. Send your address and phone number to Tony Wheelock, c/o BET on Jazz, 2000 W St. NE, Washington, DC 20018.

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