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In concert: 9:30 club 30th anniversary blowout

dave grohlFoo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl performed a short solo set then reunited with his old bandmates in Scream at Monday's 9:30 club anniversary show. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

(Check out the full photo gallery.)

By Chris Richards

If you walked into the 9:30 club on Monday night, you walked out with serious bragging rights.

Hardcore punk legends Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye and Bob Mould in the same room? Dave Grohl reuniting with Scream and covering Bad Brains? The Slickee Boys' 80th (eight-ee-yuth!) gig at the 9:30?

Yep, check, ditto and then some.

Because this wasn't any old night on V Street N.W. - this was the 9:30 club's 30th anniversary bash, a five hour fete that included performances from Trouble Funk, Ted Leo, Clutch, Tiny Desk Unit, Tommy Keene, the Pietasters and a surprise set from Grohl that had fans leaping in the air before the guy even picked up his guitar.

Divided into tiny micro-sets from a wide swath of hometown heroes, the concert felt like the Wikipedia page on Washington music history brought to life. Rollins played host, but airport woes meant a delayed arrival midway through the program - just in time to introduce punk icon and D.C. transplant Bob Mould. As Mould's Stratocaster roared through a pair of vintage Husker Du songs, it was hard to imagine any band making loud guitar music today outside of his influence.

trouble funkTrouble Funk closed out the evening. (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

Club owner Seth Hurwitz could be seen grinning both backstage and onstage - he sat in on drums with go-go legends Trouble Funk, garage rock vets the Fleshtones and jingle-janglers Marti Jones and Don Dixon. Earlier in the night, he was greeting fans outside the club. "It's not the bricks and mortar," Hurwitz said, touching the box office wall. "It's the people who work here and the people who come here... It's a community."

That community was on full display during a set from the Evens, a duo featuring former Fugazi and Minor Threat frontman MacKaye and drummer Amy Farina. The pair performed on the club's balcony level with the house lights shining on the crowd gathered below. Tweens in studded belts and boomers in Subhumans T-shirts craned their necks to hear the twosome's minimalist punk tunes, every face in the club illuminated.

(Full disclosure: I'm friends with some of these folks. Fuller disclosure: My old band was signed to MacKaye's Dischord label. I've crashed at Rollins' house. I've toured extensively with Leo - we played to six teenagers in El Paso. The first concert I ever saw in Washington was the 9:30 club's 15th birthday party. Jawbox headlined. It was awesome.)

Catching a breather between sets, fans spoke reverently of the venue. Erica Bruce, a local photographer who's been coming to the 9:30 since it sat on F Street until 1995 said, "The 9:30 is a place where I get to see someone like the Hold Steady, like, five times in a year. They always have great bands."

Frank Vestal said he's been coming to the club for 27 years. Did any shows stand out? "Too many!" he said with a laugh.

Fans in the house on Monday probably won't forget Dave Grohl's surprise set anytime soon. He took the stage solo to perform the Foo Fighters' hit "Everlong" before being joined by his bandmates from Scream - the Washington punk troupe Grohl played with before he joined Nirvana.

"It might be a club and there might be a music scene that revolves around it," Grohl said backstage after his set. "But honestly, tonight is really like family. I'm seeing people I haven't seen for 15 years that I used to spend every weekend with."

NPR radio personality Bob Boilen holds a special place on the 9:30's family tree. His band, Tiny Desk Unit, was the first group to ever play the club in 1980 and was the first band to hit the stage on Monday night.

"If you said to me, 30 years from now, you'll do a reunion, I'd say, That's crap," Boilen said after his set. "But there's really something basic in the DNA of all of us to make this music... All the bands here are good. This isn't about old farts playing music again. It's a spark that just doesn't die."

The show's final segment included springy ska from the Pietasters, swampy metal from Clutch and a powerhouse closing set from Trouble Funk, who seemed not to know the meaning of the word "curfew."

As they vamped through the classic rumble of "Pump Me Up," Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis could be seen in the VIP balcony sporting a wide smile usually reserved for Alexander Ovechkin hat tricks.

When it was over, Rollins strode back onstage to bid the crowd farewell. Praise for Washington's greatest bands had been exploding from his mouth like tiny firecrackers all night, but his closing remarks hit especially hard: "I love the fact that I'm from D.C.!"

Who in the room didn't feel the same?

trouble funkThe Evens performed on the club's balcony. (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

trouble funkThe Slickee Boys. (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

trouble funkBob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar) performed a solo electric set. (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By Chris Richards  |  June 1, 2010; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Bob Mould, Clutch, Dave Grohl, Don Dixon, Fleshtones, Foo Fighters, Henry Rollins, Marti Jones, Pietasters, Scream, Slickee Boys, Ted Leo, The Evens, Tiny Desk Unit, Tommy Keene, Trouble Funk  
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This was my HFStival - Seth and staph put on a great party and show. I was right behind The Evens, very cool.

Posted by: Hemisphire | June 1, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Real question: Why was Q and Not U not performing?

Posted by: empsg59 | June 1, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

i wish i could have been there! ted leo, grohl, mackaye, pietasters, tiny desk unit, rollins... all at the same show, man o man, this is D.C.'s rock music!

Posted by: destewar | June 1, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

cuz they broke up about 3 years ago or so?

Posted by: destewar | June 1, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

And Scream broke up over 20 years ago, but you gotta give the people what they want!

Posted by: empsg59 | June 1, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

It was a stellar evening- I have much love for 9:30, as the old venue was where I first rebelled enough to sneak out of my house and into a show. And the new one is where I first kissed my husband. (Disclosure: he's in Clutch, so I was gonna love last night no matter what.)

But it was so cool to see the range and above all, the HEART of all of these musicians, and to see what a small town DC really is. And tightly knit. I wish it could have been a 24 hour party with even more folks playing, but hey. I'll take it. Seth? 40th? A full week, por favor? Yes, I'm that greedy.

Posted by: lindsaymaines1 | June 1, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

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