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“Surely somebody has noticed that the old 9:30 Club building in Washington, D.C., is soon to be a J. Crew store,” writes Wm. Ferguson on the New York Times Magazine‘s 6th Floor blog today. “Surely someone will claim this is somehow ‘ironic,’ that the club that fostered the all-ages hardcore scene of Minor Threat, Government Issue and Fugazi will soon sell pairs of $140 Café Capri pants in geranium lace. I don’t see the big deal. But I worry about the smell.”
Fishing for straw men much? I’ll admit, I didn’t realize that the Atlantic Building—-which housed the old 9:30 Club until 1995—-would soon contain a J. Crew. But that’s not ironic; it’s Darwinian. I don’t think many people in D.C. are getting too vexed about the dearth of punk around Metro Center these days.
But thanks, New York Times Magazine, for the link. The old 9:30 Club’s smell certainly was notorious. In 1994, Washington City Paper readers suggested it might stem from “fermented Band-Aids” or “Jimmy Hoffa.” At the time, club employees attested to the smell’s otherness—-it was more than just the product of cigarettes and spilled beer. An odor expert, Dr. Robert Henkin, said the smell’s tendency to linger in patrons’ clothes could be attributed to the club’s heavy use of Lysol. But he didn’t execute the kind of chemical analysis that might have diagnosed the source of the odor. “There’s a lot of agents at work here,” Henkin said. “And I’m not sure you’d want to ruin your special mystique.”
The club’s current owner, Seth Hurwitz, has since downplayed the myth. According to the American University Eagle, he told a group of students in 2011 that “it was just a very distinct combination of beer, cigarettes, urine, vomit and body odor.”
Ferguson may be worried about the smell, but J. Crew shouldn’t be. The entire building, except for the historic facade, was torn down beginning in 2005.