DC9 continues to support local artists with artist residencies; Credit: Darrow Montgomery

We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

A few months ago, Ari Voxx thought the only musicians who got residencies were big stars. You know, the Britney Spears and Lady Gagas of the world, who spend months or years performing at an amphitheater in Las Vegas. “Honestly,” the dream-pop singer-songwriter tells City Paper, “I didn’t think that residencies were typically done on a smaller scale.”

So when DC9 Nightclub asked Voxx in January if she’d be interested in a monthlong residency consisting of weekly performances, it was an immediate yes.

The idea for an artist residency sprung into the mind of Alli Vega, DC9’s now-former talent buyer, after seeing local artists in other major cities like New York have the chance to play a venue over and over again. And it was the perfect way to fill in DC9’s winter calendar, explains general manager Hannah Swearman.

“Most tours end in the fall, around Thanksgiving, and then things really don’t pick up again until mid-February and March, when people are on the road to go to South by Southwest,” Swearman explains. “So there’s this lull in February and January where we really thought it’d be a good opportunity for local bands just to get a chance to play around.”

DC9 kicked off its residencies in 2022, with Fetcher, an alt-rock band from Baltimore, and Jeff Draco, an indie-pop performer based in D.C., as their inaugural artists. This year, the venue invited Voxx and Grady, a power-rock group who call the city home, to play around on their stage.

Resident acts have complete control of each night, Swearman says. They get to curate their set, their instruments, their lighting, and their openers. Emily Yaremchuk, Grady’s lead singer and guitarist, tells City Paper that choosing openers was like “building out our dream shows.”

The audience is not only getting to see you four times,” she says. “You’re also getting to expose the people who like your music to music that you think is also really worthwhile.”

Grady’s residency began on Jan. 31, and wrapped up on Feb. 22. Over the course of those four weeks, DC9 became the band’s “home away from home,” Yaremchuk says. Samantha Collings, the band’s drummer, says live shows are Grady’s “bread and butter.”

“Playing live is the reason that we wanted to make music in the first place,” she says. “So getting the opportunity to do it once a week is a total dream.”

Voxx’s residency kicked off on Jan. 11 and wrapped up on Feb. 1. She took a personal, solo approach for her first show, playing keys and guitar herself. Week two, she swapped out her instruments for her synth-driven backing tracks. For the third week, her backing band, the Sad Lads, joined her for an evening of “full energy and sound.”

“I made sure that each show was different,” Voxx says. “Each part of myself and my music, uniquely showcased each week.”

Her final show was on the first day of Black History Month, and began with openers NXNES and Jaylin, two experimental Black artists from the area. Then, Voxx took the stage in a flamingo onesie, which she opted for because she “didn’t want to get out of bed this morning,” she confessed to a crowd of around 40. The Sad Lads (Jegug Ih on guitar and Ryan Boshart on bass) joined her, but with acoustic instruments instead of their regular electric ones.

The result sounded entirely different from her records, which favor voluminous ’80s-inspired production. Against the backdrop of acoustic instruments, Voxx’s smooth, jazz-trained voice and diaristic lyrics were front and center. The set laid her intimate songwriting bare.

That’s what DC9 hopes to provide artists with, Swearman says: The space to reconfigure their songs into new shapes and sounds and test them out before a local crowd. The venue plans to host residencies every January and February, and is looking into expanding them into slower summer months.

“Anything we can do to grow and help bolster the local scene, we really want to,” Swearman says. “I would love to see more D.C. bands breaking out and making it to the next level.”

That’s why DC9 reached out to Voxx and Grady and, based on the performances she got to see every week, Swearman thinks both are destined for bigger stages.

“To be able to give them shows to grow with,” she says, “is a really cool opportunity.”