By: Roger Gastman — 9:30 Book Author
I grew up in Bethesda, MD, right outside Washington DC. Early on I got hooked on hair metal, punk rock and hardcore. At a young age, I started going to shows. 1990 was the first the year I went to 9:30 club. I ended up at an Urge Overkill concert and never stopped going since. I was in seventh grade. It was the main venue to go to. It’s where people went to see shows. It was easy to find, near metro stations and advertised all over the place. While other venues had shows, 9:30 Club seemed like they had their shit together the most.
I’ve seen a lot of shows at both the old club and the new club. It’s safe to say I’ve probably been there a hundred times or more. There are so many that stick out in mind, but the first time I saw Gwar when again, I was in seventh grade on the Scumdogs of the Universe tour, I had never seen anything like it. I had seen the videos and heard about them, but didn’t truly know the experience until I saw them live at 9:30. I came home covered in the fake blood. Almost all shows, in the 9:30 Club you are in the show whether you want to be or not, and it makes you feel like you are on stage.
I probably saw the Dead Milkmen there a dozen times. I remember seeing Body Count on their first tour. Then there’s also random shows like Ride and Blur that were a little bit softer and I didn’t care much about back then, but tagged along with a friend, but years later as I grew to like those bands, I realized how lucky I was to get to see them at such an intimate venue.
There were many nights where if I didn’t have much to do, my friends and I could go catch a show at The 9:30 Club for $3, $5, or $8. It was so easy to go down there and hang out.
I saw the Foo Fighters, Sonic Highways show there as well. It was an awesome show. Just being in the room felt special, then seeing Pat Smear on stage playing with one of the biggest bands in the world, drinking a bottle of Champagne on stage and thinking — that’s funny, that guy was in the Germs.
The First Show
I was young. I had been to stadium concerts, but never a club show of that kind. The second you walk into that place, it has this particular smell. Then, you walk down this long black hallway. There’s probably a dozen crackheads on the street that tried to hit you up for money or get you to pay them to watch your car. You are instantly taken into this crazy vortex, from walking down the long hallway, up to this old desk and ticket table to either show your ticket or buy a ticket. You then walk in to basically a bar and a stage. There’s also a back bar and dingy basement. I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I thought it was like every club was like. It just immediately felt authentic and not an experience I had never had before, and not an experience I have ever had again. I’ve been in a million clubs, none of them have ever mimicked what’s in that 9:30 Club room. I’m sure much of it has to do with all the history in it even before it was the 9:30 Club, with all the interesting art that was in the building.
Why a 9:30 Book
I had done a lot of projects about DC and I’ve always enjoyed them. I know where a lot of the bodies are buried, you can say — from photographers to a guy that used to be in a band. I have a lot of great resources of DC subculture in music, graffiti and art through various projects I’ve done through the years. I was friendly with 9:30 Club Owner, Seth Hurwitz and numerous folks at 9:30. They wanted to come up with a special thing for their anniversary. They like to celebrate ever five years and wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before. It seemed like there was more and more nostalgia around the club than ever. Nostalgia meaning — a spirited buzz, like it was a brand new club that just opened. I try to tell great oral histories and general stories that are unique and interesting. It just made sense to work together to tell the story in a book form. They always wanted to do that so I went out and started researching, interviewing and designing for the next year and a half.
The Book Compilation Process
I really just dove right in. I made a list of people I knew I wanted to talk to and found a way to connect with them. Through those initial discussions, you find out about other people you should probably talk to. I knew I was going to need a ton of photos and archived flyers so started putting out the word. I’d show up to people’s houses with scanners. Again, one thing turns into another where you get people saying, “Hey, my friend has this and that.” I just kept digging and the story began to appear.
I ended up writing the foreword which was surprising. I didn’t expect to do that at all. It was such a nice surprise that ended up happening.
Future of 9:30
The 9:30 Club will keep going and keep growing. Not growing in a sense that there will be six more new 9:30 Clubs, I just think the existing club will continue to be ahead of the curve. They will bring back the awesome bands that have always played there and bring in the big bands that you never expect to see in a small room, in addition to those young new surprises. I think they will continue their history of also being the breeding ground for young bands and continue to foster a lot of talent around the city. It’s a venue that all bands want to come back and play no matter who they are. There is no slowing down or stopping what they do. Ever. It’s become bigger than The 9:30 Club itself. It is its own institution in DC. You have all the museums and you have The 9:30 Club.
Get the book at https://merch.930.com/products/book
Produced by Jeff Gorra — Artist Waves