Our last chance to save music venues is right now.

A photo of Rita Ora playing at U St. Music Hall in 2015 scotch taped to a background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Images by Richard Chapin Downs Jr./Getty Images for BTPR and Yevhenii Dubinko/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

This is part of Six Months In, a Slate series reflecting on half a year of coronavirus lockdown in America.

Until the morning he decided to shut it down, Will Eastman had been planning a 10th anniversary bash for U Street Music Hall, his much-loved, no-frills dance club in the District of Columbia. Nestled along one of the city’s main nightlife drags, it’s a plain, black-walled basement space with a sternum-shaking sound system, where in the days before the coronavirus, 500 people could get sweaty to some underground deep house or drum and bass, catch an indie band, or hear a set from one of the bigger acts like Four Tet, Disclosure, Robyn, or Diplo who would sometimes stop by. To mark a decade of U Hall—as its devoted fans call it—Eastman had booked the biggest batch of events of his career as a promoter and DJ.

Two days before the shows were set to begin—March 11—Eastman realized he had to pull the plug. America was waking up to the fact that the pandemic was already flaring. “It just became clear that it wasn’t safe to hold shows,” Eastman told me recently. “The crisis was just coming down, like a freight train headed toward us.” That day, D.C.’s mayor ordered a state of emergency.

Six months later, concerts are…

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