Azure Wolf returns to DC9 for Independent Venue Week. Credit: Kurt Heyde

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Independent Venue Week

Pearl Street Warehouse’s venue manager Joelle Callahan calls independent music venues the heartbeat of D.C. Bill Spieler says these stages are the “driving force of getting bands started.” Spieler, who has run DC9 since it opened in 2004, has witnessed how a fan base can grow as bands—such as Sylvan Esso and Toro y Moi—return to these often smaller venues, perfecting their talent and performance. “Then all of a sudden, they’re playing 9:30 Club or the Anthem,” he says. Though D.C. has no shortage of indie venues, Pearl Street Warehouse and DC9 are the two spots hosting shows for the 2021 Independent Venue Week, which runs through July 18. The international celebration began in the U.K. in 2014. Marauder, a music marketing firm, brought the event stateside in 2018. This year’s celebration feels especially poignant after 16 months of little live music. Pearl Street Warehouse, which opened in 2017, pivoted throughout the pandemic; in October, it hosted a handful of intimate shows through the city’s COVID-19 pilot program, but shut down for the holidays. “It was definitely a lot of ups and downs,” says Callahan. DC9 officially reopened on June 11, though it has been moonlighting as a restaurant since April. Prior to that, the venue was closed for four months, though it hosted various livestream shows throughout 2020. Virtual events offer little financial incentive, but DC9’s talent buyer, Alli Vega, says they were put on for the community and artists: “We tried to keep the venue as alive as we could.” Both venues are finally returning to their regularly scheduled programming and expect to ramp up this fall. Callahan, Vega, and Spieler urge folks to celebrate the return of live music. “There’s just like an unspoken magic of live music and being all together watching a band,” says Vega. “I’m really excited that we’re all able to do that again.” Independent Venue Week runs through July 18; DC9’s shows are Azure Wolf on July 16, and The North Country with Frass Green on July 17. Pearl Street Warehouse’s show is Modest Proposal, Mod Fun, and DJ Skate on July 16. independentvenueweek.com. $12–25.