Around Town: Farewell, U Street Music Hall

UHall03
Walking up to U Street Music Hall (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

Today, U Street Music Hall announced it is closing its doors effectively immediately due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Although primarily a DJ club, Parklife DC covered a number of exciting live shows at U Hall, as it was affectionately known. For much of its 10-year run, U Street Music Hall hit the sweet spot as a space for upcoming touring bands with its 500-person capacity and easily accessible location.

While it’s tough to see the beloved club close its doors, the writing sadly was on the wall at least as of last month. In September, U Hall owner Will Eastman gave an interview to Slate wherein he acknowledged the financial prospects for the shuttered club were bleak.

The last show Parklife DC covered at U Hall was Temples on Jan. 20, 2020.

Apparently, U Hall was figuratively on fire in 2017, when many of my favorite shows for the venue occurred. Check out these recaps of these wonderful concert performances at U Street Music Hall:

Book of Love @ U Street Music Hall — 2/11/17

Yelle @ U Street Music Hall — 9/26/17

Saint Etienne @ U Street Music Hall — 9/27/17

Fleshtones @ U Street Music Hall — 10/20/17

Here is the full statement from U Street Music Hall on its closure:

Dear U Hall friends and family,

There is no easy way to say this, but here we go: It is with tremendous sadness that we share with you today that U Street Music Hall is closing effective immediately.

When we closed our doors to the public this past March, just days before we were to celebrate our club’s 10-year anniversary, none of us could have imagined at the time that we would still be closed nearly seven months later with no return date in sight because of an unrelenting disease called COVID-19. But we kept our hopes up even in the face of an impossible situation because we love what we do so much: presenting the best music in the world for the best fans in the world. It was our mission to return. And let us tell you, our team — like so many others in this industry that has been turned upside down — worked tirelessly over the past seven months to see us through this extended closure. But due to the pandemic, mounting operational costs that never paused even while we were closed, and no clear timeline for when clubs like ours can safely reopen, we had no choice recently but to make this heartbreaking decision.

This is not at all what we envisioned for 2020, a year that was supposed to launch us into our second decade of bringing great music to our beloved home of Washington, DC. But as strange as it may sound, we will have some incredibly fond memories of this year. Let us tell you why:

Over the past several months, your generous donations and sales from our merch store helped us pay critical operational costs and kept our core staff employed, providing us all with some much-needed normalcy and optimism during this tough time.

Your donations also allowed us to launch our U HALL TV livestream series, which gave local artists a platform to safely connect with the community and the ability to earn income while opportunities for musicians are currently scarce.

Your many emails, social media posts, and daily words of encouragement gave us hope and brought tears to our eyes on some of our more difficult days. It gave us the motivation each day to keep doing everything we possibly could to save the club.

It’s hard to take a step back at a moment like this and it hurts to say goodbye to our basement home on 1115 U Street, but the memories we created there will stay with us forever. We hope they will with you, too.

We could not be more grateful to our incredible staff and partners — in particular, our friends at IMP — both present and past. From the front-door and bar staff to those working behind the scenes, they were the backbone of this club and kept it running safely and seamlessly each night. So many of us work in this industry because we truly love our jobs. This is our calling. From rave to punk, we all come from various music scenes and communities. Many of us on staff formed lasting friendships with our coworkers that we’ll always cherish.

To every artist and promoter who played in our DJ booth or stage or presented a show in our club: It was an absolute honor to be your DC home base and to follow and support your careers. Thank you for sharing your art with us. Countless U Hall fans met lifelong friends and even their loved ones during one of your performances.

To each of the U Street Music Hall founders who had the vision to dream up this no frills, unpretentious basement dance club with one of the best sound systems in the world: What a gift you gave us all. Thank you so much. And last but certainly not least: to our fans. We have been so incredibly honored to serve you and to be part of DC’s music scene for a decade. From the second we opened our doors, you immediately embraced us with such warmth and enthusiasm which we’ve felt greatly for 10 years and never took for granted. And while 2020 may feel like a lost year, you helped us stay afloat these past several months and allowed our staff to enjoy this milestone tenth year as a club.

We could not have done that without you. That is one of the true definitions of community.

It’s now October, and right now we should be in the midst of our busy season. Our staff would be happily greeting you at the door or at the bar. Artists would be wrapping up a great show and signing our wall in the back of the office. But instead we now spend this time closing the chapter on an incredible experience. We remember that exhilarating moment when Goldie’s “Inner City Life” was the first song we played through the club’s speakers a few days before we opened. Years later, as a small group, we listened to a few more of our favorite songs on that powerful sound system before it was carefully dismantled. In that moment, though the circumstances are much different, we felt the same overwhelming feeling of love for music that we experienced on our opening night 10 years ago.

So what now? We don’t really know. We are taking some time to process this deep loss. But in the meantime, we’ll leave you with a few more parting words:

Take care of each other. Check up on your friends in the music industry who are likely hurting during this shutdown. Keep supporting music and the arts. Donate. Make music of your own. Share it. Build a community. Buy your favorite club or artist’s merch. Share their work with friends. Contact your legislators so other independent venues and promoters have a fighting chance to make it to the other side of this pandemic.

Music is life. Life is music. We truly believe that.

You allowed music to be our lives for 10 wonderful years. And we’ll never forget it.

— U Street Music Hall

Explore Parklife DC’s coverage of U Hall concerts

Leave your own favorite U Hall memories in the comments!

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