The Culture of Your Neighborhood Hard Rock Venue
by Jonathan Jaeger
Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield, VA is located in the suburbs of Washington D.C. in a non-descript shopping center that is shared by a 7-11, gas station, Afghan Kabob restaurant, and a number of convenient stores. In my teenage years, Jaxx was the club I obsessed over—checking the club website to see if any new shows were posted and to check ticket availability was probably as frequent an occurrence as visiting my Yahoo! homepage. Jaxx was my childhood venue, the CBGBs for my neck of the woods.
As I remember it years ago, Jaxx had a metal detector at the entrance (although almost never in use), a bathroom without a door for the stall, band stickers that littered the walls, and an unforgiving PA system that would challenge your hearing for days if you weren’t smart enough to wear a pair of earplugs. Its shortcomings, however, became its greatest strengths. The fans relished in the character of the venue because it made you feel that much closer to the bands, the music, and the community.
At the more popular shows there would often be a line of 100-200 metalheads waiting for the doors to open in the early evening. The owners of the Afghan Kabob restaurant would ask the eagerly waiting metal junkies to move to the opposite side of the doors so as not to scare off potential customers to their restaurant. I don’t blame them—a couple hundred long-haired dudes wearing Iron Maiden shirts with Eddie the mascot on them probably would strike fear in the average unsuspecting family of four looking to have a nice dinner.
The proximity of the venue to my house at the time made going to Jaxx convenient and was a little easier to swing on a school night then going to a concert in D.C. (which was not even worth a discussion with my parents). I guess there’s something about having a venue in the middle of nowhere that attracts a fair number of consequential hard rock musicians that peaks my interest.
For music fans who don’t have a club like Jaxx to look back on with nostalgia, then I think they are missing something from their music culture. If you don’t outgrow the venue, move to a different city, or lose your interest in the type of music from your childhood, then your musical inclinations will most likely be intertwined with your favorite local venue. I remember the venue being as integral a part of my concert-going experience as the band itself. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen many bands who I wouldn’t have gone to see otherwise had it not been for the built-in Jaxx “aura”, as grimey and rundown an atmosphere as it was. After moving out of the area for college, I haven’t had the same concert-going experience since.