In the late 80s and early 90s, Washington DC became known as “the murder capital of the world.” The city had the highest murder rate of anywhere in the world during my teenage years. The most powerful city on the planet had skyrocketing homelessness, poverty and drug crime. It also had an explosive scene of angry, politically-minded musicians who didn’t care about fame or money, but were more focused on facing down the hypocrisy of our government. The bands in DC inspired a whole wave of hardcore bands up and down the East Coast, many of whom swore an oath to abstain from drugs and alcohol (Straight Edge) to stay awake to the bullshit surrounding us.

Bands from NY came to form a kinship with the kids in DC, and that connection bloomed at The Safari Club. “Safari” as we knew it, was an Ethiopian restaurant and disco. On Fridays it would host Ethiopian disco parties, Saturdays were for GoGo, (a rowdy local live-percussion funk style that is still a signature export of DC) and Sunday matinees by hardcore bands from all over the US. Another spot nearby, Club Asylum began to do hardcore matinees, and if you were lucky, you could go to shows in both places. I remember Asylum had such terrible sound it would hurt your ears, but a bigger concern was getting kicked in the head from someone throwing their body into the crowd from across the pit or from the stage.

I was lucky to grow up in Washington DC in the early 90s, not just because of the punk scene. My friend Alex Booth got hired to DJ in the EBM/Industrial/Goth room at a club called Tracks. Tracks was a gay club in South East (SE) the epicenter of Washington’s poverty and crime nexus at that time. On Saturdays, Tracks would open to a mixed crowd, and I would go see Alex DJ, and then wander into the room where DJs like Scott Henry played techno and house records. I think a lot of American dance music fans first found their way into it via a welcoming gay club in a neglected neighborhood. I feel so lucky that on any given weekend, I could start out at a punk matinee, drive off listening to GoGo on the radio and finish at a club playing Nitzer Ebb and Detroit techno.

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