The 9:30 Club: “A Place in Time”

Some background on Emma Boorboor’s project on the 9:30 Club

Emma Boorboor’s project consists of a podcast that seeks to answer the question, “How is the 9:30 club and its decades of success unique to DC?” Although she originally saw this project as a fun alternative to her typical, politically-centered university classes, Emma eventually realized that to fully understand how the 9:30 club evolved, she would have to delve into the political and social forces shaping DC. In addition to ethnomusicology and anthropology, this project is informed by concepts in geography such as spatiality in her attempt to theorize about how the social forces of DC, mainly the tension of thousands of disenfranchised citizens residing in the nation’s capitol, shape space. Although it is a private venue, the 9:30 club is a shared space that has been shaped by the specific social context of Washington, DC.

The 9:30 Club podcast:

How the project changed over the semester

The 9:30 club was Emma’s first introduction to the alternative music scene in DC. As a freshman in college at American University, she had no idea that the club was nationally recognized as one of the best nightclubs in the country. She just knew that the bands I liked played there and that she always had amazing experiences. The original direction of her research was to explore what sets the 9:30 club apart from other venues and to understand how it has evolved over time.

As she delved deeper into what made the 9:30 club unique, she realized the driving question of her research should actually be, “What is it about DC that makes the  9:30 club unique?” Although Emma thinks this was ultimately a more interesting direction to go in, the shift was also forced in a way by the fact that she had a much harder time interviewing employees of the 9:30 club than she thought she would. There were a series of setbacks. Emma’s original contact was not as useful as she thought he would be because although he was part of the staff he felt he had not worked there long enough to help her.  He put her in touch with another person who passed her along to someone else and she thought once she interviewed one person they would introduce her to more but she lost contact with them after she did one interview.

Emma’s project has evolved to be more theoretical than she originally intended but it is still grounded in experience from various perspectives: an employee’s, a performer’s, and her own as someone who has attended various shows.


Emma would like to thank Lisa White, booking manager at the 9:30 Club, and Robin Bell from Bell Visuals.


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