U Street Music Hall
U Street Music Hall, first and foremost, is a dance club—not a rock club that hosts dance nights. The brainchild of local DJs Jesse Tittsworth and Will Eastman, the venue is something of a DJ Valhalla—its design informed by the countless clubs the pair has visited while touring in recent years. There are multiple turntable setups and a clearly visible DJ booth, which is carpeted with foam padding to make standing behind the decks a little more comfortable. “[We wanted] a no-frills-rock-bar sort of atmosphere, but with the infrastructure and sound system of a serious dance club,” Tittsworth says.
The pair has spent the last several months repurposing the 300-capacity 1115 U St. space that used to belong to Cue Bar—stripping away the neon trimmings (“It originally looked like a Dave & Buster’s had sex with a Thai restaurant,” says Tittsworth) for a stylish half-finished décor. The vibe is largely populist—there are no reservations and no bottle service—to the point that the space is unfriendly to benchwarmers. “The club is for dancing, not for sitting,” says Tittsworth.
DJs won’t be the only thing moving hips at U Street Music Hall. There’s a large stage directly across the floor from the DJ booth. “There will be live bands two or three nights a week,” says Eastman. As far as what kind of music people will be dancing to: “Our primary focus is new underground music of all varieties,” says Eastman. And a lot of the performers will be homegrown. “I’ve been impressed by the talents of local producers and parties. There’s a community here of forward-thinking dance music folks,” says Tittsworth.
Not surprisingly, the club is starting to shake up the established rhythms of D.C. night life. Eastman has pulled Bliss, his indie/electro night, from its longtime home at the Black Cat and relocated it to the music hall. Promoter and DJ Chris Burns will have a rotating Friday night gig at the club spinning house music. Nouveau Riche is the first party to announce that it’s pulling up roots, but more are likely to follow.
Eastman and Tittsworth are among the reasons they’re going, too. Beyond the sound system, the weekend slots, and the chic decor, part of U Street Music Hall’s allure is the fact that its owners are DJs (the ownership group also includes Thievery Corporation member and 18th Street Lounge co-owner Eric Hilton, his business partner Farid Ali, Hilton’s brother Ian, and Brian Miller, who has designed spaces like the Gibson). “I think myself and a lot of DJs are excited about UHall,” Burns writes in an e-mail. “It’s really good to finally have an awesome club that’s giving DJs a fair share and that is being helmed by folks who are within the ranks of our own.”
Take Nouveau Riche. The popular monthly dance night—run by DJs Gavin Holland, Steve Love, and Nacey—called DC9 home for almost four years. They were comfortable in the venue and got along with the staff. So the decision to pull up stakes and move down the block to the new U Street Music Hall didn’t come lightly.
But when Holland heard the music hall’s sound system, he was converted. “It would really be impossible to exaggerate how good the system/soundproofing is in there,” writes Holland. “It’s mind-blowingly amazing. They have 20,000 watts dedicated to just the 65Hz and below range, which is unbelievable for a club of that size.” Basically, that means it’s really loud.