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44: The Past, Present, and Future

April 11, 2023

What do the Foo Fighters, Modern English, and Maggie Rogers have in common? They are all part of an amazing lineup of 44 artists playing 44 shows for $44 at DC’s newest venue, the Atlantis. Why 44? To celebrate the iconic 9:30 Club’s 44th year in a venue designed to replicate the original 9:30 Club.

Whenever I tell people I go to college in DC, they ask if I have gone to a show at the 9:30 Club. This is almost immediately followed by some story about the show they saw at the 9:30 Club. If they’re my parents’ age – or even my parents – they reminisce about “the old 9:30 Club.” My mom waxes poetically about the time she sat on the stage at a Shawn Colvin show, while my dad goes on and on about seeing OMD on September 19, 1991 — yes he actually knows the date by heart. 

The original 9:30 Club opened its doors on May 31, 1980. It took its name from its address – 930 F Street, NW – as well as its opening time – 9:30 PM. Early ads referred to it as “a place and time.” The space was small and oddly shaped. It held only about 200 people and had poles that obstructed views. It was not the sort of space you’d expect to become an iconic music venue. But the 9:30 Club quickly became the venue for alternative music, featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., 10,000 Maniacs, the Psychedelic Furs, and many, many other bands that were on their way to international fame. 

Over the years, the 9:30 Club grew in popularity and reputation and by the mid-90s was in need of a bigger space. The owners of the 9:30 Club purchased the former WUST Radio Music Hall and began renovating. The “old” 9:30 Club closed its doors on New Year’s Eve 1995. Less than a week later, the Smashing Pumpkins played back-to-back sold out shows at the new venue, complete with significantly upgraded acoustics and clear site lines, and room for 1,200. It has received multiple awards and accolades, including being named the best large music club by Rolling Stone, and it is the most attended club of its size in the world.

There is no doubt about it — there is something special about the 9:30 Club. My first experience at the 9:30 Club was in November 2021, when I saw FINNEAS. The acoustics were phenomenal, the venue was intimate, and the view was amazing. I’ve now seen several shows — from up-and-coming artists to international stars — and they are always something special. Attendees will queue outside for hours for the general admission shows. My friends and I have made it a tradition to get take-out ramen from the restaurant next to the club to be fueled for the hours of standing ahead of us. And we are not alone. 9:30 Club patrons are committed, and enjoying the wait before the show is part of the ritual music fans have come to expect. I have found that the show is always worth the wait. 

The Atlantis will honor the 9:30 Club’s celebrated history with 44 shows beginning May 30, when the Foo Fighters will take the stage. Forty-three more bands and artists will take the stage through September 29, when Maggie Rogers will close out the celebration. In between, legends from the past 40 years of music will take the stage. Tickets are being distributed through a lottery system, and resales will be limited to fan-to-fan sales at face value. This novel approach to ticket sales will ensure music fans have an opportunity to experience the history of the 9:30 Club and some of the biggest artists of the 80s through today. The full lineup can be found at the Atlantis’ website.

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