The invitation read "Dress as though there's no tomorrow."
Most did. The music was ear-blasting, punk, decidedly discordant, end-of-the-worldly. Kachunk. Kachunk. Screeeetz. The sound of Republicans banging their heads against the wall, said one guest with a studded, black leather neck strap and spiked hair the color of a fire engine.
The crowd was calmly chaotic -- no slam-dancing -- at the 9:30 club's "First Quadrennial Inaugural Brawl." At another time, it might have been called an anti-inaugural ball.
"It's not against Reagan, not against anything," said a fur-draped woman called Natasha, a roaming hostess carrying an electronically wired fur muff. "I resented the fact that this town is all geared up for a party and I had no place to go. So this is my party. We have something to celebrate -- and it isn't Ronald Reagan."
At the door, guests paid $3 to mingle in a shoulder-to-shoulder surge of sensory violation. Natasha invited avant-garde artists from Washington to show their work. In the club's dark cellar, performance artist Jared Hendrickson stretched immobile, horizontal, chained for three hours from the ceiling, looking into a media barrage of blinking television screens and blaring radios. He called it his "Modern Decrucification Series."
And there was a fashion show: clash fashion for the streetwise, with punk models prancing in geometric swatches of color on stage. Last act: an a cappella swing sing. "You see," said Natasha, "this party's only for people who like to have fun."