Last August, I checked in with Panorama Productions owner and longtime DC event promoter Antonis Karagounis about potentially covering a few upcoming events. I’ve been collaborating with Karagounis since the start of my nine-year career as a music and nightlife journalist, covering the likes of Tiësto, David Guetta and more at his Club Glow parties.
But instead of a media pass, Karagounis presented me with the opportunity to become the concept development and social media director of Decades, a three-story, 12,000-square-foot, retro-themed nightclub that opened downtown at the end of 2016. The last six months have been entirely unexpected, and ultimately beneficial to the nightlife scene in the nation’s capital.
Until February of last year, the space now occupied by Decades was known as Midtown, a club that specialized in Top 40 pop and dance from the present day. However, for Panorama Productions, opening a pop nightclub wasn’t enough. Panorama owns Northeast DC mega concert hall Echostage, and a quartet of Northwest DC spaces including restaurant and nightclub Barcode, fully soundproofed underground house and bass music venue Soundcheck, multilevel dance den Ultrabar, and urban pop space L8 Lounge.
Alongside vaunted turntablist DJ Enferno (who once toured with Madonna), venue designer Josh Lee, artist Keneth Nyakabwa, Decades Marketing Director Kamal Azzouz and myself, Karagounis focused on creating an atmosphere “celebrating club and DJ culture, plus the hits of the recent past and the present day.” Together, we are aiming to do something more by paying homage to the top hits of the 80s, 90s, 2000s and today.
As the journalist involved in this process, my most significant role is ensuring that the story of the club is correct. Everything in the planning stages was selected with precision – the Air Jordan sneakers hung artfully as if they’re swinging from telephone wires on the Decades of Hip-Hop floor, the beer and other alcohol served on the 90s floor, the faces of the most culturally relevant pop stars in the 2000s floor’s Pop VIP bottle service area, and of course, the music itself. It’s my job to ensure that the respective timeframes of each floor are accurately represented, making a nostalgic impact on the nightclub’s clientele.
It’s important to hear the perfect song in the perfect place with the perfect mood and feel completely transported to a likely forgotten, but pleasantly remembered age. If even one of those concepts falls short, in many ways the club falls short. In my attempts to overdeliver alongside a team of creatives also obsessed with overdelivering, Decades has thankfully been packed since it opened.
The larger goal of Decades is to celebrate just how well-liked and remembered these songs and eras were – forever. Within one classic era cycle, the music industry sold nearly 1 billion albums in the year 2000 alone. And for roughly 30 years, MTV excelled at turning music into indelible pop culture. There is now a very real, three-story and must-enjoy opportunity in the heart of DC for everyone who wants to connect with a sound from their past.
Decades: 1219 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; 202-853-3498; www.decadesdc.com