Not much seems to exist on the Internent on this short-lived punk and pseudo-punk hangout in an alley in northwest Washington, D.C. It was just a stone’s throw from where I worked at the time, the Ha’ Penny Lion, a popular hangout for DC lobbyists and other K Streeet wannabees. On a side note, I should mention that a good portion of the restaurant’s pre-lunch rush receipts came from the 11:00 A.M. lobbyists regulars ready to get a buzz-on before noon. And yes, the bar was full by noon.
From what I remember from my friends who were “in the scene,” the “Back Alley” occupied space unused by Mr. Days, a jock/sports bar, the type of which I’ve visited perhaps only once (and that was in Baltimore, not DC). The irony seemed to make it even more popular–jock bar by day, punk bar by night.
Almost every night, I would see a guy (who looked to be a light-skinned African-American bike courier) wearing a faded Batman t-shirt (before it became cool to wear them and way before it became geeky to wear them); Ben, the DJ (whom I would ask nightly to play or mix certain songs); and a few other people I shouldn’t mention right now.
I used to talk to Ben a bit. He DJ’d at Cagney’s sometimes, too. It was at the Back Alley that I first learned about Bauhaus, Public Image, LTD., Killing Joke, etc. Yes, I know that some will say that those bands are the “standards,” but in DC, there wasn’t much opportunity to hear those bands anywhere at the time. The local alternative station WHFS didn’t play that music too much, and there weren’t many other places to explore alternative music.