It was just like old times Friday night. People lining up to get into Decades to mill about in a crushing crowd and dance to DJs spinning tunes from the '70s, '80s and '90s.
Last Friday was the return of Decades, the one-night-a-week dance event that until June 1998 was held at the Ritz on E street. After more than a year's absence, Decades II has reappeared at 932 F Street, a space otherwise known as D.C. Live, a nearly two-year-old club whose clientele (like the Ritz's) is primarily African American. But money talks, and while D.C. Live is booming on Saturdays, its Friday business was a little light, so the owners decided to let Decades II take over its two top floors, while hedging their bets by keeping D.C. Live going on the ground floor.
That split made for some curious demographic dancing out on the sidewalks of 10th and F Streets Friday night, as black patrons who tried to enter D.C. Live the usual way (the F Street doors) were directed around the corner to a door on 10th Street. Likewise, but in reverse, for whites arriving at the club wondering which door to head to for Decades.
The folks who put together Decades II are the same ones who ran it when it was at the Ritz: Howard Kitrosser (also an owner of Eleventh Hour), Greg Bland (who also runs the DC Young Professionals events group), and the folks at Shack Events. They've combined their clout to ensure that about 2,000 partiers will show up, as they used to do every Friday at the old location. With entry fees of $8 and $10 you can see why these fellows may have dusted off the concept in time for the party mood of late 1999.
But it's not all about the benjamins, insists Bland. "People kept telling us how much they missed Decades," he says. "It was really our clientele that wanted us to bring it back." That clientele was definitely back in force on Friday, with patrons lining the sidewalk well past midnight to have their IDs checked and their hands stamped.
While the crowd may have been "only" around 1,500 this first time back, Kitrosser says there's no doubt the numbers will increase. "It's a much nicer club than before," says Kitrosser, "and when word really gets around that we're back and that it's a nice setting, it's going to be huge." But unless Decades II convinces D.C. Live to shut down completely on Fridays so Decades II can take over its space, it's hard to imagine fitting any more people in there.
The scene after midnight was booming, the dance floors were packed, patrons (most in their mid-twenties) were several deep at the bars. Way too many guys in khakis and blue Oxford shirts. Can someone please send a memo to these young Washingtonians? This is why people think Washington nightlife is a joke. Because you guys don't know how to dress.
For more information on Decades, drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
METRO TO EXTEND HOURS
Last week the governing board of the Metrorail system voted to extend the subway's schedule by two hours a week. Beginning Nov. 5, it will begin an eight-month experiment by closing at 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays instead of midnight, a compromise to the clamoring of nightlife mavens who have been hoping that Metro would consider a 2 a.m. or even 3 a.m. closing.
But let's be serious. When last call is 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, a 1 a.m. closing of the Metro system is not going to make many people change their habits. There will definitely be an upswing in late-night ridership, but perhaps not enough to ensure that the experiment becomes fixed policy.
On the music page of washingtonpost.com you can read the comments that more than a 100 people posted after Metrorail's announcement. Here's a typical one, from a reader in Silver Spring:
"It is great but not enough. I do not drink but I love to go dancing. It is hard to find a parking place and the Metro is not open late enough to get me home. So I stay home. I am a newcomer to the DC area and find it hard to experience any type of nightlife with all the headaches of getting around the city. The Metro should stay open until at least 2:30 or 3:00 am to allow everyone safe passage home."
Hear, hear. I second that.
And let me take a moment to thank the hundreds of you who sent in e-mails on this topic to me here at Nightwatch. All but one were strongly in favor of extended hours (the dissenter was questioning the need for good, upstanding folks to be out that late at night). I passed all your mail on to the folks at Metrorail and to D.C. Council member Jim Graham, who's also on Metro's board and who drafted the proposal to extend the rail system's hours.
"I went into the board meeting with 16,000 signatures from [radio station] DC-101's petition and the hundreds of individually drafted e-mail messages from Post readers," Graham says. "And as a politician, I'm used to getting letters pro and con, but they're mostly form letters. These messages were carefully thought out, and the point is clearly that there is a real consumer demand for extended hours, and that was the key."
Cheryl Johnson, Metrorail's spokeswoman, also praises people for making their views known: "They asked, we listened and we responded. At the end of six months, Metro's general manager will present a report to the board looking at the impact to date of having Metrorail run to 1 a.m. and then we'll explore the feasibility of extending it to 2 a.m."
Graham is optimistic about the chances of weekend hours being extended until 2 a.m. down the line. "We've overcome the major obstacle, which was any extension at all," he says. "Now I think we're going to see such spontaneous widespread demand that we'll make it to 2 a.m., no problem. I really think we're on our way to that becoming a reality."
I like Graham's optimism, but what is needed now is a leap in late-night ridership on weekends beginning Nov. 5. If you want later subway hours, it's in your power to make it happen. Get on the train!
FOLK SERIES RETURNS
Monday nights were a little less interesting earlier this year when the Institute of Musical Traditions canceled its spring concert series due to money problems. But the local folk world would have none of that, and it came to IMT's aide, and this past Monday the series started up again with a concert by the Hungarian folk group, the Okros Ensemble.
"I'm so excited about the fall series," says newly-on-board concert director Betsy Platt, "but mostly I'm excited that it's even taking place at all. When the series went on hiatus in the spring we sent out a mailer asking for donations and the folk community came through beautifully. They donated money not even knowing if there would be a future, and it gave us a little nest egg to get started again."
The concert lineup is impressive, with Scottish songwriter Dougie MacLean performing Monday and traditional Scottish band the Tannahill Weavers the following week. But it's not all Scottish. Upcoming shows include the local tango group Quintango and local performers Al Petteway & Amy White.
Locations of the concerts vary, with most being at the Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church (3215 Powder Mill Rd., Adelphi) though a few (including the next two shows) are at Montgomery Blair High School (corner of Colesville Road and University Boulevard in Silver Spring). Platt says she's looking at other venues, hoping especially to find a spot near a Metro station. "Our holiday concert will be at the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) auditorium, just above the Metro at Silver Spring. I'm hoping that will bring people who might not otherwise come out to our shows. I'll be doing everything I can to bring more people out. We've got to keep this thing going."
For more information on the IMT concert series, log on to www.ceimd.com/imt.htm or call 301/263-0600.
NIGHTWATCH ON THE WEB
Friday join me online from 3 to 4 p.m. when I'll be chatting with Todd Watts, lead singer from one of the Washington area's most popular rock bands, emmet swimming. Click on the music section of www.washingtonpost.com to submit your questions for me or Todd.