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The juxtaposition of old and new hits you like a bass drop when you walk through the doors of D.C.’s cavernous new concert and live entertainment venue. Capital Turnaround will host its first show in early August, featuring a yet-to-be-named comedian. The locals that book talent for Union Stage, Jammin Java, Miracle Theatre, and Pie Shop are the exclusive live promoters for the room that tops out at 850 people seated or standing.
You can tell the pillars are original, dating back to when the Navy Yard Car Barn was built in 1891 at 8th and M streets SE. There, streetcars turned around before heading back out on the line that ran from the Navy Yard to Georgetown. HillRag reported on the building’s storied history in 2018. Before the renovation, most knew the building as the “Blue Castle” on the corner.
The exterior no longer looks like an amusement park. Enter the renovated brick building and you’ll pass seating nooks studded with tufted leather couches and other furniture en route to the event space.
Talent buyer Jon Weiss says there will be two to four bars set up during shows. They’re working on a food option for when Capital Turnaround first opens this summer. He can’t wait to see people fill the space that will host both seated and general admission shows where people can dance freely in the wide aisles.
Almost all of them will be all-ages events and the space is accessible for those using mobility devices. “For all of our venues we try to keep things all ages all the time,” Weiss says. “There’s a deeply rooted, all-ages vibe in D.C. thanks to the punk scene in the ’70s and ’80s.”
Weiss started booking talent back in November 2019. Capital Turnaround will host bands, comedians, and podcast tapings. “It usually takes a few months to get shows of this size and calibur set in a tour,” he explains. The first show was slated for late March 2020, but the pandemic ground plans to a halt. “Technically we’ve been booking the room for 20 months now, but there have been no shows because of COVID.”
In addition to the secret opening act planned for early August, the following events are on the schedule:
True Crime Obsessed podcast—Sept. 17, 2021
Story District DC—Sept. 25, 2021
Todd Rundgren—October 17 and 18, 2021
Steve-O—December 4, 2021
Rina Sawayama—May 6, 2022
Convincing artists to try a new venue is tricky, but Weiss thinks he’s well positioned to reel in exciting acts that will add to the District’s growing prowess as an entertainment city.
“Reputation is everything in the music industry,” he says. “There’s also something valuable in the live music industry called history. If you work with an artist in a smaller room, there’s that loyalty. You believed in them when they were small, so they’re going to work with you when they’re big. We’re lucky the space has incredible sound and lights and it’s gorgeous so it’s not a tough sell.” (Potential performers can check out the specs here.)
“The brothers that own Jammin Java and Union Stage have been doing this for 20 years this October,” adds Lana Mahmoud, the director of operations for the Union Stage group. “We’re ready.” She’s referring to Daniel, Luke, and Jonathan Brindley.
The Brindleys and the Union Stage team landed this opportunity in part because they have an existing relationship with the National Community Church. They work together at Miracle Theatre on Barracks Row. Churches don’t use their spaces seven days a week, paving the way for mutually beneficial relationships with artists and entertainers. NCC purchased the Capital Turnaround property in 2014. “Most events they’re having are for their community, but they don’t need it that often,” Weiss says. “That’s where we come in to fill Fridays and Saturdays.”
Weiss says that it’s every promoter’s dream to keep growing. “To go from a 200-person capacity at Jammin Java to 850-person capacity in the heart of D.C, it’s a pretty crazy story over 20 years,” he says.
Mahmoud and Weiss know the launch of their shiny, spotless new venue comes at a time when the country is mourning the pandemic-related losses of countless concert halls. “We were so humbled just in 2019 to get the opportunity and now it’s even more special and unique,” Mahmoud says. “There are many music venues that weren’t fortunate enough to make it out of the pandemic. We not only scraped our way out of it, but hopefully we’re making a big comeback and return.”
Weiss adds that in 2017, when Union Stage opened, he sensed there were questions about whether there were too many venues in the District. “But everyone was able to do well for those first few years,” he says. “I feel like Rock & Roll Hotel closed for different reasons besides COVID and U Street Music Hall closed during COVID. More venues are going to open. I think it’s a good thing. There’s enough for everyone to succeed and have more arts in D.C.”
The debut of Capital Turnaround, according to Weiss, means “more jobs and more chances for people to have something cool to do, especially as arts are being pushed out of D.C.”
“We’re pushing back,” Mahmoud adds.
Capital Turnaround, 770 M St. SE; capitalturnaround.com