Yellow Arrow on DC's Punk Monuments
- Words: Ken Taylor
Any visitor to the nation's capital knows there are plenty of walking tours to be taken, spiraling around monuments, museums, and the eight million buildings that make up just the Department of the Treasury. But the tours given by Yellow Arrow, a tech-savvy group of psycho-geographers, tell a much different story. Yellow Arrow's mission is to have the people of DC tell their own histories; they've marked a series of super-personal sites with yellow arrow cut-outs, each of which corresponds to a phone number. When passers-by text that number, a personal message about that site is transmitted back to the user's phone. The group's latest project, Capitol of Punk, is a text tour featuring sites chosen by Fugazi, The Make Up's Ian Svenonius, and tons of other scene makers. Trek through famous DC punk spots like Wilson Center, Georgetown, Madam's Organ, and the old 9:30 Club while the keepers of the city's hardcore past expound on the legends and lore that happened there. And you don't even have to be in the area to take the tour. Yellow Arrow also offers a video tour online, so you can download the maps and text messages from afar. Here are a few key spots to chat about next time Ian MacKaye sends you a text.
It's now a blues bar up the street that boasts visits from Barbara and Jenna Bush, but in its heyday, Madam's Organ (2318 18th Street NW in the Adams Morgan neighborhood) was a music and art co-op where Ian's Mackaye's first band, Teen Idles, played their first show opening for Bad Brains. You can still find the Crooked Beat record store in the basement.
See that Starbucks on the corner of 7th and E Streets? It once housed d.c. space, one of the scene's homegrown art galleries run primarily by Cynthia Connoly, who had a particularly DIY stance on booking shows. She'd rather give the tiny room to unknowns who'd draw 30 people than bump them if Nirvana or Hole needed a last-minute gig. Something to sip on.
Old 9:30 Club
The new 9:30 Club still deserves plenty of props, but the old space at 930 F Street NW was the rat-infested ground zero for harDCore. In fact, according to Joe Lally of Fugazi, rats and other nastiness seem to factor into just about every story about the place, aside from Minor Threat's "sell-out" reunion show, where they pelted the crowd with coins.
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