The Capital Ballroom/Nation Day Thread

Today, the Day Thread pays tribute to a bygone institution of the DC nightlife:

Founded as The Capital Ballroom in 1995, the club was the largest in the city at the time, initially concentrating on booking concerts that were, as a friend of mine put it, “too big for the 9:30 Club, and not big enough for the Patriot Center.”

Or that was the idea anyway. Despite it’s size, the Ballroom was never quite able to wrest the title of DC’s premier nightclub concert venue from the more established 9:30 Club. Part of this may have been a matter of the club lacking the history and prestige of it’s smaller counterpart, but there were other issues as well. The first was location. The neighborhood the Ballroom called home, Navy Yard/Near Southeast, was regarded as especially dangerous even by the standards of 1990’s DC. The second issue was that the venue’s sheer size made for a poor viewing experience in many parts of the club. Basically, if you wanted to see anything, you had to be prepared to fight your way to the front and stay there all show.

In 1999 however, the club’s fortunes shifted somewhat with a change in management and a rebranding as Nation. This was accompanied by something of a shift in focus towards dance-oriented events, something the space was frankly much better suited for. Events such as “Alchemy” (Thursdays, goth/industrial), “Buzz” (Fridays, rave/EDM), and “Velvet Nation” (Saturdays, gay-oriented dance music) proving popular additions to the DC nightlife. Unfortunately, the popularity of these events ended up becoming another obstacle to concert bookings, as now the problems mentioned above were joined by availability on these nights being limited to matinee shows. This era in DC (roughly the era when young FunBoy started going to shows) was often marked by acts that probably should’ve played Nation selling out the 9:30 Club, while acts that probably should’ve played smaller venues would play a half-empty Nation. Nevertheless, the popularity of the club nights was enough to keep the club going…

… until it wasn’t. In 2006, the owners of the property decided to close down Nation, with plans to demolish the club and build an office building on the site. No one should’ve been surprised. Months earlier, ground had been broken on a new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals just blocks away. By the time the stadium was finished two years later, the entire neighborhood had turned over and one of the poorest, most neglected areas of the city had transformed into one of the trendiest. Meanwhile, the hole left by Nation amongst the city’s concert venues would remain empty until 2017, when the similarly-sized The Anthem opened in the nearby Southwest Waterfront neighborhood.

Happy posting all, be good to each other.