Plush Life

Five Years of Velvet Nation

Who would have thought that 1999 would ever seem so far away? But time passes, history is made, and this Saturday night Velvet Nation turns exactly five, entering it into the rarefied pantheon of long-lasting gay club nights in D.C.

You may be tempted to raise a toast for five more years to Velvet co-creator and promoter Ed Bailey — but you may want to choose another form of congratulations.

“Each of the last five years I’ve said if I’m doing this next year, just shoot me,” jokes Bailey.

To the immense good fortune of D.C.’s nightlife denizens, not a shot has been fired.


Velvet, you see, helped push D.C. nightlife to a level matched by few other American cities. It’s made going out in D.C. a more cutting-edge affair, Bailey says, with more of a focus on fashion and on “aggressive new music” that isn’t necessarily familiar.

The road hasn’t been entirely silky smooth, and Bailey concedes that attendance has been down the past eighteen months by about 20 percent, occasionally dipping below 1,000 people filling the former warehouse space. He believes that may be due in part to a limited lifespan for big events in D.C., not to mention the onslaught of media stories focusing on drug use at nightclubs in general and Nation in particular. The Friday Buzz party, once the venue’s largest, succumbed to undercover television crews, police action and congressional scrutiny.

But Bailey says that since the turn of the year crowd numbers are growing, most likely in response to more frequent appearances by popular local DJs — including Yiannis and Blaine Soileau — spinning in the main room.

Bailey doesn’t expect to ever again match Velvet’s best days, but those days are a tough act to follow. A roaring success from the get-go, Velvet easily pulled in more than 3,000 people in an evening during its first year. The 2000 March on Washington solidified the club’s rep as k.d. lang ad-libbed onstage, Kristine W performed, Victor Calderone spun and the club snagged a national reputation in the dance industry.

Bailey, whose fifteen-plus years in the business began at that life-spring of D.C.’s party scene, Tracks, has another big project in the works. But with several big Velvet events on the horizon, all signs point to a good bit more Velvety goodness for him and the club.

“If five more years are in the cards for me, fine,” Bailey says. “I’m ready for a change, but I can’t not do Velvet.” 

V: Velvet’s Five Year Anniversary will feature DJ Victor Calderone and “surprise” performances, as well as “live bodybuilder statues” and other Roman Empire-inspired excess. Cover is $10 before 11 p.m., $20 after. See www.velvetnation.com for more information.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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