Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Night at the 9:30

Well, as many of you long time readers (all 3 of you) know, when I hit 30, I experienced a major shift in thinking. I came to the conclusion that I had hit the halfway point in my life, and the first half hadn't amounted to a whole heck of a lot. Oh sure, by conventional standards, I've done everything right. Advanced degree, successful marriage, home ownership, no unhealthy debt, had done a bit of traveling.

But the thing is, I'd spent a lot of time being "good." Playing it safe. Not taking chances. Not doing things that would seem out of character for me.

This year, I won the Oscar pool that Heather sponsored, and she gave me a book as a prize. It's entitled, "101 Things To Do Before You Die." Some of them are pretty silly and some of them I'm pretty sure I will never do, like joining the 16 mile high club by traveling into space. After riding the Mission to Mars ride at EPCOT, or whatever the hell the name of that ride is, there's no way in hell I'm going to space. And I'm fine with that.

But it got me thinking and I compiled my own list. I carry it around on a little index card in my wallet, and every now and again, something comes up and I add to it, but I never subtract. That list is a contract with myself. And it's private. And this weekend, for the first time, I got to add a check mark to one of the boxes, to mark it complete.

Ok, so this probably seems kind of crazy, but I've never, never, never been "clubbing" before. I've had an impression of what bars and clubs are like and what kind of people tend to be there, and they fall into one of two categories: a) high end trying to be glitzy or deliberately disgusting or b) total dives with no apologies.

If there is one thing I hate, it's pretentiousness and I've got no interest in hanging around with people who are showing how cool they are by sitting in a bar that's faux filthy or happy 70's discoland while they're dressed in sequined tank tops and designer jeans, sipping designer martinis. Nor do I have a whole lot of interest in hanging around with some guy named Ted while he works on his next hangover and we sit in a cloud of smoke and I can't move because I'm glued to the stool by God knows what.

Ok, now I know, unfair, undoubtedly. But I live in my own little world, and those are my choices in Susanland. But for some reason, I added "go to a bar/club" to my list, as I didn't think I'd ever be able to speak to hypothetical children I may or may not have about experiences I didn't have with any level of credibility if I hadn't done some of this stuff myself. And what the hay, it's supposed to be fun, right?

So, a few months ago, a blog I visit fairly regularly posted links to Ok Go's website with their treadmill and backyard dancing videos. I really thought the videos were cool, but I also really liked the songs, and I watched a few of the other videos, and the music was pretty good, so I went out and bought the CD.

Now, honestly, the CD took a little while to warm up to. One does not jump from the Lite FM to hard rock without a few misgivings. Out of the 13 songs on the CD, I found 5 that I really liked and probably 2 more that are OK, and the rest I can keep or leave, doesn't really matter. But considering the giggles I give my sister over Linkin Park (another story entirely), this is progress.

So I was perusing their website about two months ago, and happened to see that they were coming to DC to the 9:30 Club. So I told Michael about it, and he was up for it, and I told my sister, who said she would go, but I should be ready.

I bought the tickets and of course, Michael went to Rhode Island, but I didn't care, Judy and I were going and I sold Michael's ticket anyway, so all was well.

But I started getting little warnings in my excitement. Little "are you sure you want to do this?" and "it's in a real bad neighborhood" and "it's not a nice club" kind of warnings.

But I thought, "Great! That's what I'm looking for!"

And it was. I wanted to go to the kind of place where you can barely breathe for the cigarette smoke, where it's dark and cramped and loud and you get a little bit pushed around. I'm so up for that. Well, maybe not the bad neighborhood part.

So, Sunday morning dawns, the show is that night at 8:30 the opening band goes on, and my dad calls, and apparently he and Judy have been in serious discussions about this quest, and all bets are off. My father says I will not last an hour in there. I suspect Judy was secretly pleased to be tapped for this mission, since she would be able to report back on my success or failure.

So Sunday we hang out with Heather and Nancy and Steve and go to the movies in the afternoon, and then we decided to leave the car at Gallery Place and take the Metro to the club, since it really isn't that safe a neighborhood over at U Street and I had all my book club gifts in the car.

So of course, Judy's stomach has an attack, and we get above ground and we have to find a bathroom. So I'm looking around, and it really is a shitty neighborhood. There is a crappy bar, a couple of storefront pizza places, and a Subway. So I stop to look at a map, stupidly, in front of two shady looking characters and look up to discover Judy is booking it halfway down the block. So I run and catch up with her, and she hisses, "This is not the kind of place you stop and consult a goddamn map" which strikes me as hilarious. But we get to Subway, and of course, you can't use the Subway bathroom without being a customer, so I bought some cookies and soda and wait until she gets done.

Finally she's finished and we head out, and we have some directions concerning Vermont Avenue, but we're not sure, and finally I just go with my gut and tell Judy where to go, and thankfully it turns out that I'm right. We passed guys who were passed out, boarded up former homes and businesses and everything is dark, there's no lights, and everything smells like urine. So I was thanking God when we turned a corner and Judy said, "That's it, thank God, that's the club!"

Well, the club was everything, and more, that I'd hoped it would be. It was a squatty, two story industrial building with no windows. A giant radio tower was on top of the roof, and the whole thing was painted blue. Big, husky bouncers in black shirts, spotlights tracing circles in the sky, and laminated 8X11 sheets of paper tacked to the side of the building announcing "SOLD OUT".

I told Judy when we left that I was concerned that I was underdressed in my jeans and red shirt with little bedazzled gem thingies on the collar and cuffs. She assured me that, if anything, I was overdressed, and by and large that appeared to be correct. So we stood in line and I occasionally looked for the girl who was coming to get the tickets and frankly, I just felt completely alive. I think my senses were a bit heightened from the harrowing 4 block walk from the Subway, but I also was just so excited to be going in.

They opened the doors at 7:30, and Judy went up and secured us seats on the balcony. By seats, I mean she sat on the lower level of the built-in risers that would allow the people up there to see over the heads of the people standing along the railing. I found Angie and gave her the tickets and then went in myself.

Oh, the 9:30 Club, how you are everything I hoped you would be.

Pretty much everything inside was painted black. I doubt that the club ever gets aired out, since the air was already smelling of cigarette smoke. Dim sconces lit the walls, and you could barely see anything once you got out of the entryway. I went up the stairs and Judy was sitting at the bar, and we made our way over to the balcony where we wound up sitting. We were about 50 feet back from the stage, maybe 10 feet up.

I knew there would be 2 opening acts, and I had not heard of either of them. At 8:30, the first act took the stage, the Swedish singing sensation "Quit Your Day Job."

I'm going to chalk their songs up to their lack of English. I can't really think of any other reason for the music they were singing. Every single song they sang consisted of one line screamed over and over and over again, with the exception of the haunting "Beat Your Boss" which had two lines.

In addition to "Beat Your Boss" there was "Sperms are Germs" (which they graciously dedicated to all the ladies in the house) and "Piss on the panda" which I was shocked to discover went down like a house on fire in the city where our panda cub is the National Zoo's shining star... Their big gimic, however, is their keyboardist, a fairly large guy, totally bald, who spent the set either spitting on himself, on the lead singer, or all over the stage, while proceeding to strip down to his gray undies. He even took the time to remove his socks.

I think you can imagine, it was beyond fantastic. Judy was in tears she was laughing so hard, and all these 15 year old girls were just screaming and totally beside themselves.

The next group was frankly kind of a sleeper after that. The French Kicks took the stage at 9:30 (see, Dad? I did last more than 60 minutes!) had a lead singer who exuded a moody introspectiveness, and I couldn't understand a word they were singing. Between each song, the singer would announce, "Thank you, thank you, this is our last night on the tour... Our last night. Man..." and then they'd hit it. I think the girls behind us were probably big fans, because they were screaming and dancing around. And finally it was "This is our last song of our last night on the tour, man, and you've all been really awesome."

And then we all figured it was OK GO time...

Yeah, right. It took until 10:40 until the idiots working the stage had it ready and OK Go went on. Something was going on with the sound system--I don't know if the amplifiers weren't working or the sound guy just dropped his lo mein into the sound board, but everyone was getting pissed off. The grumbling started and clapping, screaming, etc. and finally the lights dimmed and the band took the stage.

Well, I don't have to tell you, they were just great. And it turns out the lead singer is from DC so he played to the hometown crowd, which was cool. They played every song on their latest CD and they did some pretty cool stuff, like they set up a stage right in the middle of the crowd and played out in the middle of the pit for a while. They also played their song "Oh Lately It's So Quiet" which I love and had everyone get out their cell phones and twirl them around, which I must admit, looked pretty darned cool, particularly in the smoke and haze.

So around 11:40, they had run through all their songs and decided to play some covers, and I just had a funny feeling it was time to get out of there and head back to get the car.

So we left, and as we cross the street to head for the Metro, these two shady characters come up to us.

Now, I have to say, I could not hear one goddamned thing. My ears were ringing from the noise of that place, and I was in my own happy place.

So this guy starts yakking at us and says "I hate that club you all just came out of." Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooh-kay.

So he starts yelling, I guess he figured we couldn't hear him.

And all of a sudden, Judy takes off like a shot.

But I could tell this guy had somewhere to go, so I was going slowly, as I figured that it was better he's in front of us than behind us. But this is an important rift in the philosophy my sister and I have. In her opinion, outrun the bastards. In mine let me fall back and see what they're up to.

So he's really ranting now, "I'm whiter than you two will ever be black. I'm whiter than you two will ever be black."

Sir, I'd venture a guess that I'm probably the whitest white girl you'll ever meet. But let's not debate the finer points of racial profiling right now, shall we?

My sister finally stops and we let him go, but then she asks me did I hear what he said? And I said I had agreed with him, but she looked kind of strangely at me, so I asked her, and she said that he had firmly stated, "I may be homeless, but I'm not harmless."

Well, OK, I just about peed my pants.

So we get over to the Metro station and isn't the damned escalator broken still? And I look up, and see this guy across the street looking at us, and Judy's looking at him and I'm trying to decide how to navigate the escalator because I HATE walking escalators like they're stairs, and all of a sudden this guy starts jogging across the street right towards us.

Very calmly, I must give her credit, my sister says, "Kate, run."

My brain just kicked into a new mode and I flew down those stairs. My left leg didn't even stop to consider if it could handle that yet. We got down those stairs, and I just ran over to the operator's booth, and Judy was right behind me and we hung out there for a minute, but the guy didn't wind up following us down, thank goodness.

We go down to the platform and aren't we there just in time to catch THE LAST TRAIN out of there? I was like "Thank you, Jesus! So glad we left when we did!"

But I have to say, I felt so giddy and alive once the experience was over, it really gave me great hope for the rest of my list being fulfilling! The bands were, in their own way, each something special, OK GO was fantastic, the club was everything I wanted it to be and more. And I think I made my sister a teensy bit proud of me, which was just the icing on the cake.

2 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Lara said...

*LMAO* Everyone should have that kind of experience at least once in their lives!!! Next time you come down here I'm taking you to the Palomino Club on a Saturday night. Because you haven't lived until you've seen a couple of drunk rednecks get into a fistfight, and the bottles go flyin'...:)

Kate/Susan said...

I can hardly wait!!!!!!! :-D