THE FOUND CITY: The Atlantis, an homage to the old 9:30 Club, is hosting 44 shows at $44 per ticket to commemorate the 9:30’s 44th anniversary. Pictured is a close-up of the entrance to the Atlantic Building on 930 F. Street in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy the Library of Congress)
History repeats itself with the opening of The Atlantis, a new $10 million 450-capacity venue designed as a place for music discovery and an homage to the original 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.
“I want to blow people’s minds. I want to blow the acts’ minds and I want to blow the audiences’ minds,” said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of independent concert promotion and production company I.M.P. “I want nothing short of that. And I want to surprise people.”
I.M.P. chose to celebrate the return of The Atlantis with a massive 44-show inaugural run at $44 per ticket – a nod to the start of 9:30 Club’s 44th anniversary year that was announced on April 4.
Foo Fighters will take The Atlantis stage for the grand opening May 30, marking the anniversary of the 9:30 Club’s 1980 opening. The iconic band, which has 15 Grammy awards including five for Best Rock Album, leads a long list of astonishing underplays by well-known artists representing multiple genres including Darius Rucker (June 20), Barenaked Ladies (July 2), Third Eye Blind (July 27), Drive By Truckers (Aug. 10), Parliament Funkadelic featuring George Clinton (Aug. 14), Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (Aug. 27) and Billy Idol (Sept. 17).
“It wasn’t a money thing,” Hurwitz explained. “They had to want to play. It represents the bands that get it…I am so grateful for each and every one of them. Not everyone did it, but there is a list of 44 that did.”
Booked by Zhubin Aghamolla (who also books The Anthem and Merriweather Post Pavilion), with an occasional assist from Hurwitz, the pair culled through a database of thousands of names to come up with the target list for the opening.
“Most importantly, we want the public to know that that we picked these acts for a reason,” Hurwitz offered. “We want them to trust us that we have curated this place. If you come see an act there, it is going to be good…Only important acts here and you’ll see in our actions.”
The philosophy was to capture the essence of what made the 9:30 Club a must play that became a band breaker in the market. Once launched, The Atlantis stage will support bourgeoning artists and hopeful future legends resulting in the tagline: Where Music Begins.
“What we wanted to do was demonstrate the kind of people that have played the 9:30 – both the original and the new one, historically,” Hurwitz explained. “What we are trying to do is set this place up as a curated venue where we even, perhaps agonize, over who to pick to play there.”
Atlantis, “is there to be able to do the bands, the artists, that we think are important – either just for now or the future,” said Hurwitz, adding that venue support extends to letting bands sell merchandise at The Atlantis for free. “Our goal is really nothing short of every act that plays there, somebody says one day, ‘Wow, I saw them play The Atlantis.’”
To flummox scalpers and make sure real fans were in the room, The Atlantis utilized a request system for the 44 inaugural shows. Fans could request up to 12 shows and up to two tickets per show. The egalitarian approach was enormously popular and within four days, fans had requested more than 520,000 tickets, far exceeding the 19,800 available.
“I was shocked,” Hurwitz said. “I wanted to make an impression, yeah. I wanted people to say, ‘Wow.’ But that was so far beyond anything I could have imagined. That’s a lot of people.”
Fans are being told now if their ticket requests have been fulfilled. Tickets for the inaugural run of shows are non-transferable, but if a ticketholder is unable to make the show a fan-to-fan face-value ticket exchange option will be available.
Before the original 9:30 Club opened its doors in the Atlantic Building at 930 F St. N.W., it was briefly home to The Atlantis. When the Atlantic Building was completed in 1888, it was the largest commercial structure in the city and one of the first with a passenger elevator. The eight-story Atlantic Building was the location of numerous important public meetings, including one at which the National Zoo was founded. In 1890, the top floor served as headquarters for President Benjamin Harrison’s inaugural committee.
“Small clubs, traditionally, organically happened out of an unwanted space. Their evolution was something that just happened,” Hurwitz offered. “What we’re trying to do is have this small club vibe but really comfortable with great sound. We want it to be great in ways a small club has never been great.”
The Atlantis, now located at 2047 9th Street, N.W. next to the current 9:30 Club, will be a near replica of the original 9:30 Club. The venue is designed by CORE architecture + design, built by MCN Build and architectural acoustic consulting and engineering services are provided by Walters-Storyk Design Group.
With a capacity of 1,200, the 9:30 Club was named VenuesNow Venue of the Decade in 2019. It has a faithful following of fans and artists who have graced the stage including legends Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Al Green, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Chuck Berry and James Brown; rising stars Turnstile, MUNA, Billy Strings and Thundercat; and arena acts such as Adele, Foo Fighters, CHVRCHES, The Weeknd, Lizzo, The Smashing Pumpkins, Billie Eilish, Green Day, Kendrick Lamar and Radiohead.
“This is where it all begins and if you don’t take that chance on new music, you’re going to miss out,” said Hurwitz.