This may be valuable information for other parents. The 9:30 club is a music venue in Washington, DC. It is located at 815 V St. N.W. (corner of 9th and V) very near Florida Ave and Howard University Hospital. I can't really say what "type" of music they typically play but my older boys used to go there for metal shows and now my high school daughter and her friends seem to find it THE PLACE for the local or still small emo/punk bands they adore.
The 9:30 club, the (Coheed and Cambria,Saves the Day and Bright Eyes shows) from this mom’s point of view…
THE GOOD STUFF:
The security guards are reassuring. They are mostly big, and they are certainly equal opportunity “keepers of the rules”. The model (Josh) featured on the web page merchandise section is highly pierced, tattooed and otherwise modified but he actually reminds me of Hagrid (the gentle giant in Harry Potter) and I suspect he would like that. Anyway, he IS “THE Doorman” and the head of security as well as a very nice guy. He sits mostly in the corner of the front hall lobby and occasionally moves about. He sets the tone of authority with his air of being in charge and general largeness (psychic and physical). The guards at the ticket taking counter are younger. They card everyone. The few (quite obviously) adult patrons present for emo/punk show(s) get an “under 21” stamp if they didn’t have an id on them. The “21 and over” stamp is put on one hand only, a simple print “9:30” or an "8:15" if the show is an afternoon one. The “20 and under” stamp is put on both hands and is a smeary-big-abstract-fire-design surrounding a cursive "9:30" that covers as much skin as possible. It remains the same regardless of show time. No confusion at the bars and not much business either when the the show caters to a young crowd.
An average of 4 strong, and very attentive men maintain the open space in front of the stage. They catch the crowd surfers (and there were many of them at the 2 of the 3 shows I've attended) in outstretched arms before they reach the barrier that ends the crowd. Every kid was cradled like a baby, set down and steadied with an almost paternalistic attitude then sent on their way with a gentle but firm directional nudge. I was happy about how security was always there to catch the kids but never acted put out about it.
Persons with “camera passes” were allowed in the 4 foot open space between the stage and the barrier. One of my girls asked Claudio (lead singer from CO/CA) for a “camera pass” and he told security “she has a camera pass” and that was enough to allow her entry to the inner sanctum. He was hanging around the edges of the stage after their set for hugs/photos and autographs with the kids, a very nice young man. No such luck at the Saves the Day show (they are a bigger name).
The stage crew also doubled as security and walked around being an obvious presence during the actual shows. I felt fine leaving the kids’ sides and wondered around a lot. In fact, I mostly did not see my kids during the show unless they came looking for me. Sets of cell phones are a handy "how to find mom to hold our T-shirts" tip. There were a lot of big guys keeping order. They were firm but nice to everyone. I was carded, stamped, tapped on the shoulder for stepping into the scared open area, and not allowed to go outdoors with my water bottle. I also had nice conversations with many of the security folks and opening bands in the downstairs bar.
The physical structure of the place was quite secure. The 3-foot border in front of the stage is strong physical barrier. It took the heavy pushing from the mosh pit surges with no problem. The balcony barriers were tall enough to prevent falls and structurally steady but still allowed good visability. The stairs were wide, and not slippery. Lighting was always adequate for safety but unobtrusive during the shows. The parking lot is fenced in and guarded the entire time. The neighborhood is a city environment, better than some, worse than others. It is easy to find following the directions on the web page.
ON THE OTHER HAND:
No one noticed nor confiscated the fire engine red pepper spray canister hanging in the open from my waistband. It is part of the key chain wallet combo that I always carry. When I remembered I had it on I tucked it out of sight but it was right out there in the open for hours while I went in and out, passed multiple security guards, etc. The also did not search bags for 1 out of the 3 shows I've attended.
In 1 of the 3 shows, on the way home the girls told me some “old guy” offered to buy 14 year old X a beer. Drinks are not confined to a bar area and can be carried around indoors; they do not let one take any drink outdoors, including water. While attending the second show I spoke to one of the security team about the offer of beer to a 14 year old and he reassured me that although this does occur if caught both the purchaser and the underage drinker are kicked out.
It is a very smoky environment. Smoking is allowed everywhere including in the midst of the crowds in front of the stage.
The mosh pit (seen in 1 of 3 of the concerts) was typically overly energetic and I admit, mosh pits really scare me. I’ve seen kids kicked in the head and badly hurt at other venues. Mosh pits form spontaneously in the middle of the crowd and are sometimes hard to avoid.
Parking reservations can be made ahead of time through the phone connection to tickets.com but not online. They need to fix that little glitch. Meanwhile buy tickets to the event and parking reservations both by phone or pay 2 service charges. When a parking reservation is made the attendant has your name on a list so you can park before going to the "will call" window to pick up tickets. In fact, the name on the list was all that was needed for pre-paid parking, there was no paper exchanged. The "official 9:30 club" parking lot is fenced in and well guarded. I felt very safe there. Other parking lot attendants near 9th and V St but not connected to the club try to fool you into using their lot, acting like they were part of 9:30 club until questioned intensely and directly about that.
UNRELATED TO SECURITY:
The mermaid and cross bathrooms I used were all clean. (Bathroom gender preferences are marked by Barbie/Ken/or cross dressed dolls in shadow boxes.)
There is a basement room called “the back bar” with comfortable seats/tables and lower decibels. Parents can wait there, sometimes (but not always - check first if buying tickets ahead of time) without buying a ticket. Do note you can't go upstairs at all if you don't have a ticket and your hand stamped.
It is either VERY cold or VERY hot. Layered clothing is a good idea.
The balconies provide good place to sit down. The middle level bars and main stage areas do not have any seating.
There is a bar on a 3rd floor with limited seating and a great view. Try to arrive early if you want to sit there.
There is a coffee bar to the left of the stairs up to the 3rd floor bar serving expresso drinks.
Ear plugs are $.50, water bottles are $3, beer is $4 (maybe $5), cider is $5, dinner portion sized food is $6 - $10 and it is possible to eat on the healthy side of the spectrum there. Food can be ordered from the back bar or the 3rd story bar as well as directly at the food prep area on the main floor.
The shows do not start at 9:30. The name comes from their old street address.
The “will call” ticket process went smoothly. Be sure to bring your driver's license and the same credit card used for ordering as well as the confirmation number.
The web page is informative and up to date.
They answered my email questions quickly. Contact information is a little obscurely buried in the online forums so I'll share it here (firstname.lastname@example.org for email)(Patrons with special needs should call 202.265.0930)(web page is www.930.com).
Many shows sell out. They post sold out shows on the web page and list them on the concert line. They also shared with me by email and phone which shows would likely have tickets available at the door and which would likely sell out.
Admission tickets can be purchased ahead of time at advance sales http://www.tickets.com or by phone at 703.218.6500. Reserved parking lot tickets can only be purchased by phone at the number just listed. If you get your tickets online and your parking reservations by phone you will pay 2 service fees.
Sept 2, 2013 RIP Josh