On New Year’s Eve, Todd Savitch attended his last (official) free show at the 9:30 Club, going out in go-go style with Chuck Brown. As one of the winners of the club’s annual raffle for a full year of free shows, Savitch was legendary. According to the staff, no one who’d ever won the prize before had cashed in on it the way Savitch did.
After meeting Savitch, a marketing consultant and publicist for the District Fine Arts gallery at 1726 Wisconsin Ave., at the Chuck Brown show, I asked him if he’d do a Q&A with the Bag:
Q: How many shows did you attend?
A: If I remember correctly, it was 166 shows at the 9:30 Club plus around another 10 at other venues in D.C., Arlington, Philly, and NYC. I’m including shows and dance parties where I might have only stayed a few minutes, but that was the beauty of being on the list.
Q: What were some of the more memorable ones and why?
A: There are many great memories this year. The first show on 1/5 was Emmett Swimming from Fairfax and there was so much excitement walking up to the box office. I was greeted by a woman working there with a huge smile and “Congratulations.” When I proceeded to the bar, one of the bartenders, someone I’ve known since the the late ’90s asked, “Did you win?” and I said, “I’m here!”
- On 1/19 the singer of the Dears helped someone in the audience with a marriage proposal.
- On 1/22 I treated a woman outside the club to a ticket to Camera Obscura. She said to me, “What’s the catch?” I just told her to enjoy the show and walked away.
- I got to see great bands I’ve seen at bigger venues, including Goo Goo Dolls, Incubus, and TV on the Radio.
- On Valentine’s Day I brought Hershey’s Kisses to the staff and got to see a great performance by the Mooney Suzuki, even though it was pretty much empty in the club, being V.D. and extremely cold out. In late May, I brought treats for 9:30’s birthday, and recently brought some Christmas treats.
- I’m not into real hard rock/metal, but this was my year to check out bands like Slayer, Megadeth, and Killswitch Engage. I had a great spot for Slayer (2/20) until a woman started beating up her boyfriend.
- Michael Franti and Spearhead (3/16) played the night before a big peace march. He played a powereful show for 2.5 hours mixing reggae, rock, hip hop. Before the show, an Iraqi veteran against the war complimented me on my T-shirt ( UB40, “Who you Fighting For). (A few days later, I read that soldier— Adam Kokesh—got into trouble for protesting.) At the end of the show Franti invited the crowd to Busboys & Poets for a benefit for Iraqi Veterans Against the War. My mother (who was only going to stay a half-hour at the 9:30) proceeded to listen to Franti play until 3 a.m. and went to the benefit with me, as well.
- The Stooges show (4/5) rocked and I realized it was time to wear earplugs!
- At Lily Allen (4/8), I treated a photographer from Turkey who had come into District Fine Arts for his birthday. He had mentioned to me that he didn’t have a ticket. Becuase of the language barrier, he didn’t understand “guest list” and “raffle.” He was amazed when he walked into the club.
- Acumen (5/2), which opened for Frontline Assembly, is a band I promoted from ’95 to ’97 while working for Fifth Column Records. I get there early and lead singer Jason Novak was out front of the club, so we got to catch up. He also did a shoutout during the show about how great it was to be back in D.C, the home of their first label and to see some old friends. During the show, I thought I saw Dylan from Chemlab (another FCR band, our most famous one) and afterward, a woman commenting on my Chemlab shirt confirmed it: “My boyfriend, Dylan was in that band!”
- At the Ted Leo show (12/8) it was cool watching Ian Mackaye and Amy Farina (The Evens) watch the show from the side of the stage.
Q: What was the best show at 9:30 of 2007?
A: It’s hard to say becuase I had many favorites: Spoon, Elvis Costello, New Pornographers, The Stooges, Smashing Pumpkins (although I don’t remember that last one much becuase it was the night before my birthday and a friend was buying shots for me, the staff, and people in the crowd around us).
Q: What was the wost?
A: Of the bad ones I decided to check out for a little while, it was a tossup: Three Days Grace, Daughtry (If he wasn’t on American Idol he wouldn’t be selling out the 9:30), Amberlin, Deftones.
Q: Approximately how many free drinks did you score?
A: The prize didn’t include drinks, but I will say the bartenders will miss me in 2008!
Q: Who else did you take with you as your plus-one?
A: I treated my brother, father, high-school classmates, other friends, friends of friends, artists, people who came to the gallery, blind dates, ex-girlfriends…. but I also had fun going alone and hanging out with staff who were off and attending shows, or running into long-lost friends and people I’ve worked with.
Q: Were there weeks you went to more than one show? If so, what were they?
A: At one point I went to the club 11 straight nights in May because I couldn’t say no to any of them:
Stephen Marley and Jr. Gong with K-naan, 5/8; Air, 5/9; Ben Gibbard with David Brazan, and Johnathan Rice, 5/10; Clutch with The Bell Rays & Backyard Tire Fire, 5/11, The Kooks, 5/12, LCD Soundsystem with Yacht Sun, 5/13; !!! with Holy Fuck, 5/14; Velvet Revolver, 5/15; Arctic Monkeys, 5/16; Son Volt with The High Strung, 5/17; Elvis Costello & The Imposters, 5/18
There were a few nights I went to both the early show and the late show (sometimes just going to the early show to wake up. I knew if I went home, I wasn’t coming back).
This year I got to see bands I’ve seen before (New Pornograpghers, Rufus Wainwright, Everclear, Scissor Sisters, Badly Drawn Boy, Steel Pulse, Toots & The Maytals, Elvis Costello, Bravery, and more) which I probably would have skipped because it just costs too much to see bands multiple times.
Other shows I enjoyed that I had never seen: Air, Clutch, The Good the Bad and the Queen, Explosions In The Sky, Mute Math w/ Cinematics, Antibalas, Wolfmother, The Frames, Peter Bjorn and John, Blonde Redhead
Q: What was the reaction from 9:30 when they realized you were actually taking them up on their offer of unlimited shows for a year?
A: They had a feeling I would be the first raffle winner to actually use the prize since I tried to win for five years (entering just about every day in 2005 and 2006). They would high five me on the way in, let me skip the line, ask me “Why?! ” some nights, to which I’d respond: “Why not!” I tried to keep a list of everyone’s name and I promoted the talents of a couple people on the staff (and former staff). Justin Jones (bartender) sang at DFA’s last opening in October and Leon Armour Jr. (former bartender ) has photographs in our current show, “Hit Me With Music!,” a show I curated (the title’s from Bob Marley’s “Trenchtown Rock”).
Q: Are you glad it’s over?
A: I’m a little relieved it’s over. It’s time to get back in shape. I will miss not being on the list for the hot shows coming up, like Wilco and The Pogues (which I bought already) and being able to head over whenever I want. I actually have to pay attention to the schedule now.