In these dark days of corporate consolidation in the music industry, “930 F Street” shines a ray of light on the legendary independent Washington, D.C., venue the 9:30 Club. Vibrant and free-ranging oral history is punctuated by tantalizing vintage clips of such seminal punk and straight-edge bands as Fugazi and Rites of Spring. Owing to the club’s international reputation and continued success at a larger location in town, where it just celebrated it’s 25th anni, pic will be in great demand at fests, could tune up some decent arthouse biz and will be a must-own DVD for fans old and new.
Located among the long-gone peep shows and porn shops of the conservative capital city’s downtown F Street corridor, the 9:30 Club’s cramped quarters included support poles regularly rammed head-first by enthusiastic slamdancers, a notoriously viscous odor (which earned it the nickname “Dirty Thirty”) and rats “too big to be scared.” The former restaurant on the ground floor of the Atlantic Building opened in 1980 and quickly became a breeding ground for fiercely independent music.
Acts that played there prior to hitting it big include R.E.M. (18 times), Pearl Jam and the Police, while the impressive roster of local bands which influenced a generation of aspiring local musicians include Minor Threat, Trouble Funk, Tiny Desk Unit, Bad Brains, Urban Verbs and Fugazi.
Long-time co-owner Seth Hurwitz remembers refusing to book Richard Marx during the singer’s 15 seconds of fame. Fugazi lead singer and Dischord Records owner Ian MacKaye, a beloved local legend, explains the practical blending of idealism and business sense that forged his music and the club’s hard-won policy of “all ages” shows.
“For all its idiosyncrasies,” author Mark Anderson reflects, “it worked perfectly for providing a venue where magic could happen, where the boundary between audience and performer could dissolve.”
Helmers Tarik Dahir and Jeff Gaul grew up together in D.C.’s Northern Virginia suburbs and labored over pic for more than two years. The nearly two dozen interviewees include band members, former employees and local music luminaries, with their remembrances divided into themes such as Angry Young Men, which ruminates on the stage-diving phenomenon that eventually led to more serious violence, and Where’s a Kid Supposed to Go?, explaining the value of an all-ages venue in keeping youth off the streets.
Tech credits are snappy, with the dicey quality of most clips completely appropriate to the D.I.Y. spirit on display. Snippets from 17 bands comprise pic’s soundtrack. Closing credit crawl cites funding sources as “Tarik’s checkbook, Jeff’s pockets and Jay’s Xmas gift certificates,” last of which refers to their B-cameraman.