Ahead of the U Street Music Hall’s 10-Year Anniversary Week celebration on March 13-22, Four Over Four chatted with Ken Brobeck, the general manager who has worked at U Hall since the beginning of 2010 and public relations and marketing manager, Melissa Beattie.
How would you define three main characteristics that set U Hall aside?
Ken: Amazing sound: We have a world-class sound system. Whether you are attending a show here or performing, it one that you can truly feel, from all sides. Music focused: It’s very much the connection between the performer and the audience. Inclusivity: It’s come as you are here. No dress code, no VIP, no bullshit.
It’s come as you are here. No dress code, no VIP, no bullshit
10 years of operating one of the most successful venues in America, what has it been like?
Ken: Working at U Hall has been an amazing ride. To be honest it doesn’t feel like ten years have gone by. Working with all the artists, promoters, dancers & music lovers has been my dream job. For me personally, I’ve always seen this as serving the D.C. Dance Community and have been humbled by the opportunity to work with them in a place where music can live. That fact that time has flown by so fast while working here confirms that the saying is true – Time flies when you’re having fun!
How did the venue’s relationship with the local community evolve since 2010?
Ken: Over the years we have built strong relationships with local DJs, bands, promoters and music fans as a place where their music will be showcased in a top-notch venue with a focus on production, promotions, and hospitality. All genres are presented here, so whether you’re into house, disco, hip hop, EDM or live music, we have something for everyone. Each genre has its own scene here and with its own regulars and dedicated promoters, who look at this place as home.
We see an overwhelming number of independent music venues closing across the US and/or being acquired by large corporations. What’s the secret to Uhall’s success from your perspective? Where does the magic come from?
Ken: From my perspective, U Hall’s success starts at the core, with its staff. From our management team, bar and security staff, to our box office and coat check workers. Many of our regulars know our staff and will often stop and talk to them when they are here. We also have built a reputation for top-notch bookings and production. Fans know when they attend a show here, they will have a full-on great experience.
Who is on your talent booking team’s wishlist this year? What can Uhall fans expect this spring touring season?
Ken: Without giving away any surprises in the upcoming months, I’ll say expect more programming on the house and disco side of things.
Do you think D.C. being the center of the political world has any bearing on the live music scene? If so, how?
Melissa: D.C.’s music scene is steeped in a well documented, decades-long history of political and social activism. After all, D.C. itself lacks basic voting rights, so living here, you tend to learn from an early age about injustice and inequality–but on the flip side, how you can help others and bring about positive change in your community and beyond. Many in D.C. have found music as an effective way to express their feelings on these issues.
For instance, growing up in D.C.’s DIY punk scene, it was commonplace to attend a show that was just as importantly a benefit for a social justice cause. Same goes for many events in the dance music scene. Singers of bands regularly spoke in between songs about politics and activism. I’ve come to expect this! We see that political and social awareness, too, in shows we present at U Street Music Hall. We host benefits for many different causes important to us and the community. We try to uphold the values and ethos that many of us learned going to those DIY punk shows and underground dance events in what we do at U Hall.
There is a misconception among some that D.C. is “stuffy”–never mind “swampy”–because of its political reputation. We can tell you that this is not the case for our city’s music scene. Whether it’s dance and electronic, punk and hardcore, go-go, hip-hop, Ethiopian, experimental, indie rock – you name it – this city has thriving cultural scene and we’re so happy to be part of it at U Street Music Hall.
Your 10-year anniversary celebration is coming up, the lineup is incredible! What was the concept/thinking behind those bookings?
Melissa: Well, thanks! When we dreamed up our 10-Year Anniversary lineup, we really wanted to spotlight and celebrate the diverse dance and electronic programming we’ve regularly presented over a decade at U Hall. From house to disco, techno to experimental and live electronic, drum & bass to the homegrown D.C. genre moombahton and sounds in between, there is hopefully a little something for everyone during U Hall’s 10-year anniversary celebration. And maybe some of our fans will fall in love with new sounds during this weeklong celebration. After all, that’s what we love to do here: present amazing, world-class music that we hope leaves a lasting impact on our fans. We can’t wait to celebrate this big milestone in our club’s existence with everyone this month!
Get your tickets for 10 Years of U Hall event series on March 13-22 here