When the Martin Luther King Jr. Library closed last month for a three-year renovation, D.C. didn’t just lose its biggest library, it lost its best punk venue. Ever since the MLK Library launched its D.C. Punk Archive—an ongoing project to chronicle the history of one of the city’s signature, homegrown sounds—it did so in the punkest way imaginable: by turning its large, underused basement performance space into a venue, hosting quarterly shows with some of the District’s best punk bands.
Sure, a show in the basement of a public library (which is a government-owned building, mind you) might not seem that punk, but consider this: How many all-ages spaces in the District do you know of that host free shows, where the venue doesn’t have to worry about operating costs, liquor license laws, or any of the other regulations traditional venues do?
As it goes, though, all good things must come to an end, and so this appreciation of the best punk venue in D.C. is more of an obituary. So allow me to use this space then to reminisce about some of the best shows this special space hosted over the past few years: There was the official kickoff show in October of 2014, with Hemlines, Joy Buttons, and Flamers; Priests burning the house down shortly thereafter with Nox and Blockhead; a righteous dance party courtesy of Coup Sauvage & The Snips; and countless other excellent locals who’ve played the basement in just three short years (Puff Pieces, Governess, Homosuperior, Bad Moves, Psychic Subcreatures, Give, The Cornel West Theory, and The Black Sparks, just to name a few).
Who knows if there will be a space for these special shows when the library reopens in 2020—we hope so—but in the meantime, let’s fondly remember all the good times.