WASHINGTON–While the rest of the District of Columbia is partying in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, U Street Music Hall will be closed as usual on Tuesday, even though it’s a very special day there, too.
Tuesday marks the venue’s fifth anniversary and the rest of the week will feature special entertainment and observances to mark the occasion. Will Eastman and Jesse Tittsworth, two of the club’s four owners who are also disc jockeys, will play at the club and Eastman is flying back from Los Angeles for the set.
Also, the U Street Music Hall’s foundation, which provides grants and donations to local music nonprofits, will announce its largest grant—$,5000—during the week.
Unlike other venues in the District of Columbia such as the 9:30 Club, Echostage and DAR Constitution Hall, which all hold over 1,000 people, shows at U Street Music Hall—with a capacity of 500—have a more personal feel.
But size is not the only factor that sets U Street apart. Its approach to simplicity and sound are also unique.
Washington resident Michael Naleid has been going to U Street since 2012 and attends shows nearly every other weekend.
“The energy in U [Street Music] Hall is like nothing I’ve experienced in a club setting…The atmosphere… caters to the DJs they bring in and the sound is on another level. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. The vibe of the people that come to U [Street Music] Hall also stands out and when it comes down to it, it’s all about dancing,” Naleid said.
The exterior of the building on U Street NW between 11th and 12th Street is so understated that passers-by would never know it houses an underground club with a sound system that ranked second best in the country in 2012 by the music website, Beatport.
The black awning over the door with a small U in the center is the only hint that this is U Street Music Hall. But once inside, there is no question where you are because the bass of the sound system is impossible to mistake.
The idea behind the venue came after Eastman and Tittsworth spent some time in Europe experiencing clubs with simple designs but extraordinary sound systems and realized the District of Columbia was lacking this type of venue, said Chris Nitti, the director of operations for U Street Music Hall.
“I think they saw a bit of a gap in D.C. nightlife where there were a lot of DJs coming through and playing either fancy bottle service places in D.C. or in the back room of a rock club where it wasn’t maybe the best sound system,” Nitti said.
Eastman and Tittsworth teamed up with Ian Hilton, who owns several businesses in Washington including the Brixton and Patty Boom Boom and with Brian Miller, who is an architect and designer. After finding available space on U Street, they worked together to open the venue, Nitti said.
Eastman and Tittsworth brought a DJ’s perspective to the table by thinking about what they liked and didn’t like at clubs they had played in, and Miller designed the space..
Together, the four owners were able to create the simple look they were going for—a mostly empty room with two bars, a 1,200-square-foot, cork-cushioned dance floor, just a few tables and a phenomenal sound system.
The black walls are lined with foam panels, which make the sound more crisp by preventing echoes, Nitti said.
“That was the thinking behind the club: very simple, no VIP, no bottle service, really good sound system,” Nitti said.
Martin Audio, the company that supplied the touring sound systems for Pink Floyd and Supertramp, manufactured the sound system for U Street Music Hall, according to the Martin Audio website.
Innovative Transducer Implementation, LLC, a company that installs sound systems around the country, advised U Street’s owners and installed the system.
The system may be high-tech, but the lighting is not.
A DJ set at Echostage is typically accompanied by a full laser show and flashing lights, but there is not much space behind a DJ for a large lighting package, which would also detract from the simplicity of the venue.
“When it’s kind of dark in the room and you just can see the DJ, you really experience the sound of the room more because there’s less other stimuli around, which is cool,” Nitti said.
The majority of performances at U Street Music Hall are DJ sets and electronic acts performing different types of electronic dance music including house, techno, drum and bass and new disco, Nitti said.
Although live performances are not the primary focus of U Street Music Hall, the venue has a partnership with the 9:30 Club, which specializes in live acts and books performances to play an early show before a DJ comes on.
U Street is typically closed on Mondays and Tuesdays unless there is a live performance and is open Wednesday to Sunday. If a DJ is performing, the club stays open until around 3:30 a.m.
People ages 18 and over can attend DJ sets, but all ages can attend live performances.