Few live music clubs have been as celebrated for as long as the 9:30 Club.
Soon after the Washington club opened in 1980, it became the go-to spot for influential bands of all stripes, from the local dance group Tiny Desk Unit to alt-rockers R.E.M. It's been named the Nightclub of the Year multiple times by the influential trade magazine Pollstar and sells more tickets than any other club of its size. Ask any number of nationally touring musicians to name their favorite clubs, and the 9:30 Club is bound to be near the top of their lists.
"It's become a place where culture converges in D.C.," said club owner Seth Hurwitz. "My greatest accomplishment is the vibe we've created and hopefully the good will we've created."
This weekend, the 9:30 Club will celebrate its 30th anniversary with two shows: a performance by campy lounge singer Richard Cheese on Sunday, and on Monday a free concert featuring bands with ties to the club. The lineup includes Ted Leo, the Psychedelic Furs, Clutch, Bob Mould, Tommy Keene and Marti Jones & Don Dixon. D.C. native and spoken-word artist Henry Rollins will host the evening.
"It's going to be a great reunion of people that helped make the 9:30 Club what it is," Hurwitz said. "It's like a family reunion."
Opened by Dody DiSanto in the Atlantic Building at 930 F St. NW, the original 9:30 Club was a dingy place with a ripe smell, a rat problem and some of the best touring new wave, punk and dance bands around. An instant hit with Washington music fans, it was a breeding ground for Washington's punk scene.
Hurwitz began booking shows there in the early 1980s, took over the club in 1986 and moved it to its current location at 815 V St. NW in 1996.
"I think our greatest move was making the move, and preserving the integrity, philosophy and history," Hurwitz said. "We transferred it to a place where people could go and not smell [bad] when they left."
The new stage, lights and sound system can move forward and back, to make the club bigger or smaller, depending on the size of the crowd, and bands often perform two separate shows there in the same night.
"You want to create history — you want to honor history," Hurwitz said. "We want to have fun, and we want to be excited when the band shows up and the set starts. We're all in the same boat here."
Richard Cheese celebrates the 9:30 Club's 30th anniversary with a performance Sunday at the club, 815 V St. NW. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. $40. Call 877-435-9849 or go to 930.com.
A host of bands celebrate the 9:30 Club's anniversary with a free tribute show Monday. Limited tickets will be available to 9:30 Club mailing list subscribers and at the door. Call 202-265-0930.