Stuff We Sell

The Old 9:30, Wilson Center, and Susie Horgan’s Punk Love

04.09.12

While flipping through Susie Horgan’s Punk Love today, I spotted a photo of a bunch of punks hanging out in the long hallway of the old 9:30. And even though the photo was taken prior to my entrance into DC’s punk scene (I was only 7 when the photo was taken), this particular shot stood out as a visceral memory for me. Between ‘88 and ‘95 I certainly had my share of frequent hangout time in that same hallway, and I was immediately flooded with memories from a slew of transformative shows I saw during my high school years: 7 Seconds, Marginal Man, Shudder to Think, All (whose set consisted of mostly Descendents songs), Soulside, Ulysses, The Grifters, Slant 6, KMD, Fugazi , Rocket from the Crypt, PJ Harvey on her first US tour, etc. This one photo also made me remember the smell of that club. For anyone who’s been there, you know the smell I’m talking about – it was a unique and pungent aroma that would kick you squarely in the nostrils as soon as the door opened on F Street; it would seep into every fiber of your clothes, burrow down into your pores, and remain present the following day while suffering through Geometry class. Everyone knew you went to a show the night before, partly because of the odor, but mainly because of the massive/blurred skeleton stamp draped across the back of your hand.

A few pages later, I was struck by another photo – an image of a similar gathering of punk kids hanging out on the steps in front of Wilson Center. And again, even though I wasn’t there when the photo was taken, I have my own associative memories from those same steps (most notably, this show).

The draw toward digging through record bins, going to shows, helping to set up shows, being a part of an audience, and even performing in bands, had/has everything to do with contributing to an active community and subculture. We found ourselves in the underground and somehow found solace in activity rather than lethargy.

Although there are no photos (that I know of) of my friends and me hanging out in the hall at the old 9:30, on the steps by the pillars at Wilson Center, in the grassy area in front of St. Stephen’s on 16th, or even on the corner of 7th and E outside of DC Space (which is the current location of a franchised coffee shop that will remain nameless), I still feel some warm, relatable affinity for the images within Punk Love.
Susie’s book exists as an important and endearing look at the sort of energy and urgency that occurs when you find that your presence actually means something – when you find that you count in the underground.
For fans of Banned in DC, consider it an extended look at the birth of DC’s punk scene, with text provided by Susie Horgan, Alec & Ian MacKaye, and Henry Rollins.

-Ryan
Punklove



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