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9:30 Club: Ahead of its time for 35 years

Exterior photo of the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C at it's location on 9th and V st NW. (Mike Danko /MADSTRACT)

The 9:30 Club has done more than just persevere over its more than three decades as a rock club. It has become beloved by acts and fans while also making Washington something of a music town.

The 9:30 is celebrating two milestones this week. It has been 35 years since the club began under that name in a ratty site on F Street that’s now a J. Crew. But it’s also marking 20 years since it moved into the old WUST Radio Music Hall (and onetime Duke Ellington’s music club) at Ninth and V streets NW, where its radio tower remains a beacon for the kind of place bands love to play and where fans line up to hear them.

The anniversaries are being marked with a free multimedia “World’s Fair” exhibit Tuesday through Saturday that will also unveil a lavish history book, “9:30: A Time and a Place, 1980-2015 The First 35 Years.”

For a club whose very name is numbers, we offer more:


The name of the club, opened by Dodi DiSanto and Jon Bowers in May 1980, is named after its address on F Street NW, not the showtime. Chuck D of Public Enemy thought it referred to the club’s square footage, it was so small.


Year the Atlantic Building, home of the first 9:30 Club at 930 F St. NW, was completed. In 1890, its top floor was headquarters for Benjamin Harrison’s inaugural committee. In the late 1970s, it was rented by artists and hipsters.


Number of days before the Joy Division band was to have opened the 9:30 Club, on May 30, 1980, and when lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide. The Lounge Lizards headlined the opening show instead.


Length in feet of the front hallway of the original club at 930 F St. NW. “I would stand in that hallway and watch my heroes go by,” says Dave Grohl.


Cost of the first concert booked by future 9:30 Club owners Seth Hurwitz and Rich Heinecke at the now defunct Ontario Theatre in Adams Morgan, doing business as I.M.P. (from the Lesley Gore song “It’s My Party”). The show by the Cramps, the Slickee Boys and the D.C. premiere of “The Punk Rock Movie” came one day before the 9:30 opening.


Legal capacity of the original club.


Songs on the Nirvana set list for its first appearance at the 9:30 in 1991, scrawled on a paper plate and featured in the book.


Price of the last show at the old 9:30 on Dec. 31, 1995. People could take pieces of the club home; some took bar stools, sinks, toilets and bricks.


Pay for Smashing Pumpkins as part of the club’s regular “Three Bands for Three Bucks” nights. Later, the band opened the present club at Ninth and V in January 1996.


Capacity of the new site of the 9:30 Club.


Number of times the club has been named Nightclub of the Year by industry magazine Pollstar. It also has been named Hottest Club in North America five times by Billboard.


Number of times the Slickee Boys played the 9:30 Club until their final show in 2011, more than twice the number of the second most performing act, the Toasters (with 41).


Number of times Bob Dylan has played the 9:30 Club.

2 a.m.

The hour that Radiohead played a surprise set at the club, after its scheduled appearance at the 1998 Tibetan Freedom Concert at RFK Stadium was cut short by lightning.


Number of turkeys given to neighbors annually by the 9:30 Club as part of getting approval from the local neighborhood association to open.

Catlin is a freelance writer.

The "9:30 World's Fair," a free multimedia exhibition of club history, Tuesday through Saturday at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. A ticketed event, with timed entry. Free. 202-265-0930 or

"9:30: A Time and a Place" is available at