Columbia Heights / Shaw (October 6, 2020)
Today we started our walk on Georgia Avenue. It’s an interesting avenue with a varied streetscape. There you’ll find everything from Covid ready nightclubs . . .
to “Gospel Spreading” bible book stores.
But mainly, it’s an assortment of small restaurants, bars, grocery stores, barber shops, nail salons, and other neighborhood serving establishments. Some of have been renovated and others not so much.
This mid-century diner looked as if it would be more at home in California than in the District.
We passed by a metroPCS store, which retails mainly cell phones but oddly also sells go-go music. It has been in the news recently. The store has been blasting go-go music since it first opened back in 1995. But for a short time a year or so back the store was ordered by T-Mobile to stop playing the music after a neighbor from a nearby luxury apartment building complained. However, after demonstrations in support of the store, and a petition that gathered more than 61,000 signatures, the company reversed its decision and we are happy to report that normality has been restored.
Go-go is a popular subgenre of funk that is indigenous to D.C. and, in fact, became the city’s official music this year. It started in the seventies here but has never taken off anywhere else. That being said, we first came across go-go music back in the eighties on the other side of the World in New Zealand when Mal bought a go-go compilation album called “Go-go Crankin’: Paint the White House Black”. Little did we know at the time that we would one day end up living in the hometown of go-go.
Just around the corner from the MetroPCS store is the historic Howard Theatre. Opened in 1910, the theatre has played host to many of the great Black musical artists of the twentieth century.
During the seventies and eighties it was a popular venue for go-go acts and Chuck Brown, the godfather of go-go, features in the Howard Theatre Walk of Fame.
Not far from the Howard Theatre is another iconic Washington music venue, the 9:30 club.
We’ve been around long enough to remember the original 9:30 club which got its name from its location at 930 F Street NW. That venue was small with a pole in the middle of the room that always seemed to get in the way when you were trying to watch an act. It also had an interesting smell of urine and bleach that fit in nicely with the whole punk and indie vibe of the place.
In 1996, the club moved to its current location and it is now ranked as one of the premier locations in the country to see indie music. Back in 1996, the gentrification of Shaw was still a few years distant and the area had a decidedly dangerous feel. On one particularly memorable night, at a Billy Bragg concert, an English tourist we met at the club asked us if it was safe to walk back to his hotel in Dupont Circle. We assured him that it was and told him that he could join us as we were walking back that way ourselves. However, no sooner had we left the club, when a fleet of police cars with lights flashing and sirens blaring flew by. We could tell that he was already doubting whether he should have taken our advice. His anxiety heightened a little further along when we had to walk out into the traffic on U street to avoid a fight that had broken out on the sidewalk in front of us. But the last straw came when a rat, not much smaller than a cat, ran across his shoes. He turned to us and said something along the lines of, if this is a safe neighborhood, I’d hate to see the unsafe ones. But now the Club is surrounded by luxury apartment buildings. How quickly things can change.
Speaking of apartment buildings, we came across this renovated one we liked with its black and white color scheme.
As well as this newly built one.
We also passed by Capital Checkers, where dedicated checkers players have been gathering for over 30 years to enjoy their love of the game.