About the book
Live at the Safari Club is a book aiming to document a moment and place in the musical history of Washington, DC. The Safari Club originally opened as an Ethiopian disco that hosted go-go bands on weekend nights. From 1988 until 1997, it was also a venue for hardcore/punk matinee shows. This was back when legendary hardcore bands like Sick of it All, Gorilla Biscuits, Bold, Judge, Chain of Strength and many more were young and barely on the radar of DC’s 9:30 Club and local unknowns had a hard time getting gigs elsewhere; the Safari Club became a refuge for the latest “original music found underground,” paralleling the weekly hardcore matinee schedule originated by New York’s CBGBs.
Three eras of activity in the club’s punk history act as an organizing principle for the book. The club’s weekend matinees started with Pam Gendel and Shawna Kenney (two teen-aged girls at the time) booking bands every week from 1988 until 1990. John Cornerstone picked up the torch from there. And and after about a three year hiatus, Martin Castro, Gabe Banner and Jon Hennessee booked the club’s last shows in the same space, later known as the Chamber of Sound. Their actual last show (featuring Battery and Damnation A.D. ) had to be moved down the street because the club had burned down the night before.
What remains of the building now is nothing more than a crumbling façade but our hope is that this book serves as a document of an era, a feeling and a scene. There is no Smithsonian Institute of Punk Rock History, so preserving counterculture is up to us.
Memory is a tricky animal, however. We need your help in collecting as many flyers, photos, and stories as possible in order to preserve them into something worth holding in your hands. Like the scene itself, this project is a group effort. We want to hear not from just the promoters and bands, but from any one whose life was affected by these shows.
About the curators
Rich Dolinger grew up in Northern Virginia and attended shows through all three eras of Safari Club’s existence. Ever the ‘eternal hardcore kid,’ he has played in numerous bands, is an avid toy collector and runs his own business, Straight Edge Tile. His photos have appeared in Spin Magazine, AP, While You Were Sleeping and others.
Shawna Kenney grew up in the bowels of southern Maryland, going to punk shows in DC and Baltimore. Booking bands became an extension of her 80s-era punk zine, No Scene Zine. Today she’s an English professor, freelance writer and award-winning author. She has covered arts and pop culture for Ms., Bust, Juxtapoz, Transworld Skateboarding and numerous other mags.
Rich and Shawna met in the harDCore scene, married each other in Malibu years later, and had their east coast wedding reception at the Black Cat.
Thanks to Dave Brown for the Judge photo in our header. Thanks to Kyle Talbott for the logo. Big ups to East of Western for designing this beautiful website. And huge hugs to everyone who has agreed to be interviewed so far! YOU are the authors of this story.