Arts Desk

A Tale of Two Warehouses: Life in Eckington Is Harder for a Go-Go Space Than a Punk Venue

The hardcore band Sick Fix’s last show was a disaster.

On Feb. 16, the group was booked along with four other bands at Hole in the Sky, an Eckington group house and show space that’s become a fixture of the local punk circuit. Toward the end of Sick Fix’s set, police showed up, and when the house’s residents couldn’t produce a Certificate of Occupancy or show they had a second fire exit, the bands and around 100 fans dispersed.

“I felt personally guilty when we got caught and had to shut down the show,” says Jaime Leclerc, 26, who lives at Hole in the Sky. “Those poor bands and those poor fans had to come pay for the show and then leave. I was like, ‘We really should have gotten our shit together before now.’”

But Lerclerc was surprised by the turn of events: Hole in the Sky had been putting on shows—with punk and hardcore bands, mostly, but also indie rock and experimental music—for 10 months before it was busted by the Metropolitan Police Department. Leclerc and her roommates don’t know why it finally happened. Maybe it was bad luck: There was an unrelated arrest in their alley on Feb. 16. Or maybe it had something to do with fact that four days earlier and just two blocks away, another impromptu music venue was quashed hours before it even opened for its first show.

Caveyard was to host a show featuring the groups T.O.B., T.E., and four other acts, but nearby residents called the police and fire marshal, who shut it down by citing—you guessed it—no Certificate of Occupancy and insufficient fire exits.

So why did the punks last longer than the go-go bands?

The fact that Hole in the Sky promoted its shows primarily through punk and hardcore websites while Caveyard put racy posters all over Eckington probably had something to do with it, says Leclerc. And certainly, go-go shows are seen as conduits for violence, unfairly or not.

Racism might have played a role in the debacle, says Hole in the Sky resident Garrett Underwood, 21. “Go-go is still seen as a threat to some sort of establishment or order maybe, and punk is a fashion,” he says.

Before Feb. 16, police had shown up at Hole in the Sky twice, but left both times without incident. “Until now, the police have been largely positive about us,” adds Leclerc. “It was weird. People were like, ‘Oh you’re cleaning up the neighborhood.’”

Underwood observes that the perception of go-go fans as dangerous and punks as harmless (or even helpful) is probably a function of punk fans being mostly white and go-go fans being mostly black. That discrepancy is especially stark in light of punk’s anti-establishment ethos. “I think go-go has this huge youth movement behind it and has a lot of energy,” says Hole in the Sky resident Lucas Severn, 20. “It has this really grassroots power even though they aren’t sitting out there saying, ‘We are going to smash capitalism,’” like some punks might say.

One thing punk and go-go bands have in common, however, is a tendency to host events in venues that may not be quite legitimate, and Eckington has adaptable space in spades. On 5th Street NE, near the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Metrorail station, a wedge of auto-repair shops and cab depots abut increasingly pricey fixer-uppers. “We are a weird industrial block embedded in a neighborhood, so it’s ideal for us,” says Leclerc. “Otherwise we’d be way out on New York Avenue, next to club Love.”

But what’s good for music venues isn’t necessarily good for the neighborhood, says Eckington resident and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Tim Clark. “Our community is turning that corner between violent crimes to become a more safe, stable community,” he says. “I don’t think go-go is what our community needs at this time. We need stable retail and to attract people to our community who want to build lives.”

So when Caveyard posters—claiming go-go shows would take place “each and every Saturday”—began turning up in the neighborhood, Clark was concerned. Neighborhood e-mail message boards lit up with parents criticizing the poster, which depicted a woman in a bikini licking a lollipop and dubbed the event, “She Taste Like Candy.” Spurred by constituents’ outrage, Clark paid a visit to the warehouse and met with representatives from the group Pep Rally for Peace in the Streets, who, he says, attempted to assuage the commissioner’s concerns.

“The occupants of the building explained to me that the event was to raise revenue for the work they were doing with inner-city youth,” Clark says.

Gary Clark (no relation to Tim Clark), the head of Pep Rally for Peace in the Streets, denies sponsoring the event. One of the bands listed on the flyer—T.E., for Tru Expressionz—also denied any connection to the event. Their manager, who identified herself only as “Ms. Shannon,” says lots of go-go flyers claim Tru Expressionz is performing. “Most of the time they do it to build up customers,” she says. (The other alleged Caveyard organizers and performers did not return phone calls and e-mails for comment.)

Though Gary Clark claims not to know about the Caveyard event, Pep Rally for Peace in the Streets does stage concerts to attract teens to educational events, such as black history programs. “We use the go-go groups, the younger go-go groups, to bring in the attention of the youth,” he says. “We have to have a way of getting them involved, getting them to see the positiveness. It’s a win-win situation,” he says, adding that it’s unfortunate that many people associate go-go music with violence. “Music doesn’t cause shootings. It’s a positive force.”

Eckington resident Steve Campbell, 59, agrees. “We have too many vacant buildings. Let’s turn these places into something liveable, and give young people something to do. We really don’t have too much for young people to do around here,” he says.

Currently, teens in Eckington travel to Virginia or Maryland for their nightlife, says Tiara Stone, 19. “Most of my friends are in college, but it’d be nice to have somewhere nearby to go to when they come home.”

Stone and her friends may soon have their wish—assuming they don’t mind hanging out with the mostly white Hole in the Sky crowd. While the Caveyard organizers seem to have disappeared, Hole in the Sky is going legit.

The house’s residents, all renters, installed an iron staircase from the roof to function as a second fire exit, and they’ve applied for a Certificate of Occupancy. They’re also painting, building a rooftop garden, and investing in a backline so bands don’t have to bring their own drum sets and amplifiers.

“We are doing all these things to not just re-open and be the same dingy Hole in the Sky, but re-open with a new face...and be a legit art space,” says Leclerc.

To fund the renovations, Hole in the Sky aims to raise about $5,000. They launched a website,, to collect funds, and are applying for non-profit status. This has rankled some members of the punk community. The first response to Leclerc’s donation request on the D.C. Hardcore message board was “Get a job.”

“A lot of people are in denial that something like Hole in the Sky needs money, but it just does in order to be sustainable,” Leclerc says. “I don’t want it to be a capitalist venture. I just want it to be sustainable and not just scraping by.”

Leclerc also hopes that by going legit and ending all shows at 11 p.m., the group will garner neighborhood support. Tim Clark, however, reserves judgment.

“If they comply with D.C.’s laws, I support it. But if there are numerous venues coming in at the same time, that changes the atmosphere of the neighborhood; that creates a club or a party culture,” he says. “If they are just popping up, it creates a real hassle for the community and the MPD as well.”

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  • someguy

    punk shows spring up wherever anyone will have them. it's notoriously hard to have a DIY space or punk space just for those shows, usually you have very young or under-18 kids coming, and usually nobody makes money without selling booze. my guess is it's probably a lot easier to make money at a go-go place.

    however, DC does seem like a pretty stuck up place. besides noise complaints nobody ever really gets pissed off by a punk show, but you put a scantly clad girl on your poster and boy do those community organizations come howling!

    in miami they just recently got the first DIY space going in god knows how long, all through donation by the tiny close-knit community. i'm sure a place as liberal as DC can get some trustfund babies to cough up some bucks.

    oh, and the punk show still went on that night, with amazing sets by the rest of the bands. just not at the same venue.

  • James D

    I think one of the hard things about getting people to donate to a DIY punk space is that people are skeptical of any people that attempt to re-open a shut down venue, because most of the time it doesn't happen. In 2008 the Bobby Fisher Memorial Building was shut down, there was money raised for a "new Bobby Fisher Memorial Building" which didn't happen. In 2009 the DC Mini Gallery was shut down due to similar problems, the owner raised money to re-open it, but then it never happened.

  • Native American JD

    punks don't carry guns.

  • Colonel K

    @James D

    Before you go running your mouth about the DC mini gallery, get the facts straight. More than you've ever done or tried to do, playa hater.

  • James D

    Nothing I said was incorrect. The space was shut down mid-summer 2009. The owner sent out emails (I was on the email list, seeing as I had set up a show there that had to be moved) trying to raise money to reopen as a music venue. He was successful in raising some money, I don't know how much. Is DC Mini Gallery now open? No, it isn't. So shut up.

  • labia stains.

    "the owner" michael harris raised something like $300 and it was far from how much they needed to reopen the mini gallery since it was a whole different ball game of code violations (which is the same story with bobby fisher) than what you get with an actual house or whatever.

  • imam

    which way to the rally, brother!

  • Grant

    hole in the sky was very adamant about keeping low profiles. We advertised without an address, mostly spreading by word of mouth, a whole host of ways to keep things from ending ugly. It doesnt seem hard to see why the situation ended up the way it did with the gogo shows. I dont see anything wrong with what they did, but there is an assumed consequence to those actions regardless of whether those consequences are right or not.

    As far as the continuance of the space, HITS started on an ambiguous platform and this recent instance is just another road on the continuous defining of the space. Now that the space is shaping itself it will be interesting to see if there is a strong enough culture around it to support its growth. Unlike other spaces in DC, I think the location, zoning and building itself make it a much more viable candidate than bobby fisher (landlord, structural issues), dc minigallery (local government, lack of foundation in the scene surrounding it) or the numerous amount of clearly illegal house venues that pop up and fizzle through out the city. Its not my spot anymore but I think its worth giving it a chance to thrive as apposed to trying to nip them in the bud

  • frak johnson

    ALL hardcore and punk in viciously masonic DC is doomed to hijack or marginalization, even Fugazi is a Facebook-like squelch on rebellion with their condemnation of aggro-rebellious behavior at their shows (both Facebook and Ian Mackaye are State Dept. brats)..

    As long as the Federal Reserve is owned by private Warmachine banks, they will hijack and marginalize rebellion (see Wikileaks) with unlimited cash from the Treasury's printing presses which they own..Humanity's f***ed anyway, I guess, the Illuminati are stupid and way too overpowered with Nukes and other hellish control-technologies, enjoy these last moments...

  • frak johnson

    Ever wonder why the VFW and American Foreign Legion were always so quick to be hosts to punk shows?? They were lookin' for violent youth in their sector to lockup, exterminate or hijack for their fascist ends...

  • frak johnson

    No commenti?? How about Youtube's vast hijack, I've heard deliberate Company sound engineer's distortions of the CroMags "World Peace", turning pro-anarcho into anti-anarcho, same for the Clash, Wrangler Brutes, etc..They sit back in their counterfeit soundlabs f'in' up retro reality to pave the way for their souldead brand of fascist capitalism (you know, how they constantly f' up commercials to sound different meanings on TV??)...Nuthin' werse than a flunkie wanna-be punk suckin the D*ck of Power for Big Brother..

  • DJ Nose

    Ummm, don't know the punk scene. I do know that racisism is alive and well and the Go-Go promoters probably should be a lil more low profile with the advertising. Word of mouth is best anyway.

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