Happy 28th Anniversary, Black Cat!
On that legendary DC stage tomorrow night will be the stacked bill of Algiers, Ted Leo, The Owners, Teen Cobra, and Anna Connolly (with Hannah Burris). I'm not saying there will be special guests, but what I am saying is that the possibility of special guests shouldn't be ruled out.
And now, because I can't be at the show tomorrow, I want to spend a little time celebrating the Black Cat. I've been going to shows at the Black Cat since 1997, way back when it was in its first iteration at 1831 14th St. NW. It feels impossible to state (let alone wrap my head around) exactly what that club has meant to me since I first had my mind blown by the boys of Blur, during those dizzy heights of the closing stages of the Britpop era. One of my most enduring concert memories is from that first Black Cat show, and involves watching Blur's Alex James playing his bass in such a languid, yet disdainful way, cigarette dangling from the corner of his sneering lips. My first show at the Black Cat, and so many thereafter, was one for the ages.
After the venue's move to 1811 in 2001, I spent more nights in that venue than I could ever hope to count. Another of my most enduring concert memories was seeing Fleet Floxes in 2008, and witnessing Robin Pecknold shut the entire place up with a beautiful solo encore. In DC, where so many people tend to drown out the stage, to feel that quiet and feel everyone's silence, was one of the most powerful moments I've experienced in my nearly three decades of gig-going. Thanks to the venue's size/name recognition/savvy booking over the years, I've seen not only big names but some before-they-were-huge names. I saw The National at the Black Cat, way back when. The first time I saw The Black Angels was at the Black Cat - and they weren't even the headliners. Not only have I seen some of the best shows of my life inside those dark, cozy walls, but I've spent so many nights cutting a rug and playing pool (badly) and shooting the breeze with old friends, new friends, friends who've drifted, friends who've moved, friends who are gone. Indie dance nights galore, birthday parties, pre-show drinks, band interviews, Rock & Shop and record fairs, mid-week rituals (Black Cat Wednesday for life). When I die, it's entirely possible that I'll end up haunting the Black Cat. At least every once in a while, anyway.
The importance of strong independent venues has always been obvious (or should have been), but these days it's at critical mass. We all know what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to the music world as a whole, let alone the havoc it's brought to individual local communities. Several DC venues are gone now, and it's crucial to keep the ones that are left going, and going strong. As life is slowly able to return to some semblance of what it was before, and as it's safe to do so, getting back to live music is going to be a must - not only for the venues and their staffs but for those of us who love them. As I've been writing this I've been overwhelmed with memories and emotions, and I know I'm far from the only one to have that kind of emotional tie to this wonderful place. No matter where I live, no matter where I go in life, the memories I made at the Black Cat, and even the place itself, will always be a part of me.
And so, I want to wish the one and only Black Cat, Black Cat (if you know, you know) an incredibly Happy 28th Anniversary. May there be at the very least 28 more. Thanks for the memories, I love you!