Creating the ClubHouse Feeling

Letter written by Tyrone "Tito" Robinson to the ClubHouse members as he became Vibrations' (Saturday night) DJ. 


"... the crowd unexpectedly moves back, like the Red Sea parting, and forms a tight knot around a central lighted area. 
Quickly a single pair of dancers glides into the spotlight.  One breath-taking lift and the woman soars to shoulder level. 
Arms extended, she appears weightless as she is turned in a 360 degree arc one, twice, three, four times. 
Another flick of her partner's wrist and she descends to waist level, still levitating weightlessly as 
her muscular partner spins her around four more times before releasing her to floor, arm length, with a stylish snap" 
--Wresch Dawidjan, OUT magazine


The music was loud, with fantastic bass and treble capabilities, and planned.  DJs had multiple options in their mental playlists for matching and leading the members' mood each evening. The owners prided themselves on creating a new sound in Washington, a continuous flow of music, each selection blending into the next in a planned sequence that both matched the crowd's mood and guided it.  Opened in the heyday of disco, The Clubhouse transitioned into house music in the 80s, creating a distinctive mix of multi-ethnic sounds.  Club staff mixed with members on the floor to get into the same ‘groove’ as the patrons.  DJs controlled the lighting as well as the music and occasionally cut all the lights off in time to the music bringing the lights back up at a key point in the stream of music.

ClubHouse Sound Clips from a recording of an entire evening of Tito Robinson's playlist at The ClubHouse

John Eddy recalls, "we began with just two lights, a mere eight speakers, and a large mirror ball in the middle of the room, but within a year we had the best sound system in the world."  Noted audiophile Richard Long designed and installed a state-of-the-art sound system that included massive sub-woofers and tweeter arrays above the dance floor.  The lighting system was also upgraded.  Club general manager Aundrea Scott oversaw the sound and lighting systems and managed the DJs.  Paul Butler, graphics designer for The ClubHouse recalls, "the effect Aundrea Scott was after was you 'becoming' the music as you listened and danced to it. And for a large quotient of the crowd that came to the ClubHouse, Aundrea succeeded very nicely in that attempt."

Butler adds:

One of the most innovative aspects of the sound system were the DJ booths, which were mounted on cinderblock foundations; this meant that no amount of vibration, either on the dance floors or within the booths themselves, nor any accidental bumping into the DJ booth from the outside, would affect the flow of the music. A solid foundation of some similar type became standard practice in DJ booth construction for clubs everywhere, but the ClubHouse was one of the first, if not the first, of the clubs to "bomb-proof" its booths in this manner.

As to the speakers, their placement was not calibrated electromechanically, but rather by ear, and a very good ear indeed, because the placement of the speakers was such that, if you were the only person in the large dance room of the ClubHouse, if you stood in the middle of that room, the sound system transcended mere auditory experience. The music seemed to come from inside of you -- and I mean your whole body, not just your head -- instead of from the speakers. ... The ClubHouse sound system could and did thunder ... But the system was also the most balanced and nuanced I've heard anywhere, ever.

As The Clubhouse sound became distinctive, staff DJs began training DJs from other clubs.  The continuous stream of music became a Clubhouse feature copied by clubs here and across the country.  When New York's Garage opened, Clubhouse staff assisted the new club's staff with their sound.  DJs from other clubs in DC and Baltimore often guested as DJs at the clubhouse.  Two of the club's top DJs came to the Clubhouse from its predecessor Third World: Master DJ, Tito Robinson, and Eugene Jones.  

Can you feel it?
Creating the ClubHouse Feeling