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Posted at 1:09 PM ET, 02/22/2010

DJs remember Metro Cafe owner Nick Nichols at Saint-Ex

By Fritz Hahn

Panic dance night at the Metro Cafe in fall 2001. Owner Nick Nichols "gave us both a chance and a place to indulge in what we loved," Panic's DJ Pogo said. "Then miraculously, people seemed to love it, too.". (Kevin Clark - The Washington Post)

If you loved music and theater in D.C. in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you probably visited the Metro Cafe, the bar, theater and concert venue at 14th and Church streets NW that offered a home for fringe theater and concerts of all genres and helped launch many of the city's fledgling DJ nights. (Parties that got their start at the Metro include Mousetrap, Bliss and DJ Dredd's Prince nights, all of which now pack the vastly larger Black Cat.) Gary "Nick" Nichols, who founded the eclectic nightspot, passed away in January at the age of 45, and he'll be remembered tonight with an evening of music at Cafe Saint-Ex.

At tonight's memorial, some of the DJs who used to play at Metro Cafe will be spinning music and lifting their glasses in honor of Nichols and the spirit of the Metro Cafe. As a tribute, I asked a few Metro Cafe veterans to share their memories of Nick Nichols.

From Mark Zimin of the Mousetrap and the Wag, via text message:
"Nick was an artist, and [so he] saw the true value in others' music or performance art with his unique eye. The Metro Cafe played host to many budding acts that would return to much larger stages in D.C. as their careers ascended. Nick was almost always right, and well ahead of conventional wisdom."

From DJ Dredd (a k a Dominic Redd) of the Prince dance party, via e-mail:
"I am eternally grateful to Nick because of the opportunities that he gave me to play music and get started here in D.C. Metro is where the first core of my fanbase developed ,and a lot of those people still come out to hear me spin. He booked a lot of great bands, DJs, and theater acts at Metro. One of the last times I saw Nick was at Thai Tanic restaurant (where he was a regular) on 14th Street. The server came over with my bill and said 'That guy at the bar took care of your check.' I looked up, and there was Nick dining at the bar. (I didn't even know he was there.)"

"The crew at Metro Cafe (Dennis, Nick, Bruce, Sal, John) became my family, and even to this day I still have a lot of love and affection for everyone involved. ... Nick will be missed."

"Oh, two things people may not know about Nick: He could actually speak Thai and he was a great guitar player."

From Will Eastman of Bliss, via e-mail:
"Nick was an intriguing guy. For example, I didn't know his real name was Gary until I saw his dad's Facebook message that Gary "Nick" Nichols had passed away. I'm saddened by his passing at the far too young age of 45. Nick was the first club owner to give Bliss a chance. Our first party drew 45 people, and I thought that would be the first and last Bliss. Instead, he said "Good job, Eastman. See you next month." Metro Cafe was an incubator for the D.C. indie dance scene, the first venue to host Mousetrap, Bliss, Panic, and a lot of other events. He also booked my band The Secret History, giving us an opening slot for Trembling Blue Stars. He gave a lot of D.C. DJs and bands their first gigs. He believed in D.C. music and in a mixed-use arts space; Metro hosted bands, DJs, art shows, and theater. Sometimes, I'd show up for Bliss and a theater performance would still be going as our crowd formed a line waiting to get in. Nobody complained. It was just how things worked, for the sake of art, on "art" time. I'll always be grateful for his support. I hope he's at peace."

-- Fritz Hahn

By Fritz Hahn  | February 22, 2010; 1:09 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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