In 1980, there were few clubs to see bands, especially regional bands, play their original music. I would know — I was in one of those bands, Tiny Desk Unit. Where I lived, in Washington, D.C, the options you could find if you wanted to hear rock and roll were nearly all bars, not clubs, and what you’d encounter there were bands playing mostly cover tunes, some hoping to sneak in a few originals, often to the dismay of the bar crowd.
Into that environment, 40 years ago this weekend, D.C. got something new: The 9:30 Club opened at the end of May 1980 at 930 F Street in downtown D.C. A line from the 9:30 Club’s typewritten opening announcement will give you a sense of the groundbreaking nature of this day. They called themselves the “first non-disco niteclub to open in downtown D.C. in thirteen years.”
We had little idea of the role clubs would come to play in the development of music and scenes, but from the start, the 9:30 Club wanted to support the blossoming wave of new bands playing original music forming in the wake of the punk and new wave scene.