WASHINGTON — Millions of Americans are heading to the polls on Election Day.
And a historic D.C. music venue is doing its part in getting out the vote.
“We have all of these cool artists coming through all the time. If we could just leverage them to get people to stay involved in the process, it would be good for everybody,” said Donna Westmoreland, COO of I.M.P., the parent company of 9:30 Club, Lincoln Theatre and Merriweather Post Pavilion.
“We are getting the artists that are performing in the weeks and days leading up to the election to do a little viral video for us,” Westmoreland said. “We send somebody in with an iPhone pretty much every night and ask artists if they’ll cut it. Some do and some don’t.”
A punk legend was the first to cut a video, turning “Because the Night” into election night.
“The first one we had was Patti Smith,” Westmoreland said. “She was doing a book event at the Lincoln Theatre and after she sang ‘People Have the Power,’ she agreed to do a little video. Probably most young people don’t know who she is, but it was very impassioned.”
Newer voices include Phantogram, Michael Ian Black, Tig Notaro and Fred Armisen.
“We’re trying to get these artists to reach young people and encourage them to vote,” Westmoreland said. “I think everything that we’ve seen is that millennials and young people are going to make the difference. Quite honestly, I’ve seen a lot of reports that showed they were perhaps undecided, perhaps not as excited about this election and may be thinking about sitting it out.”
Westmoreland insists the campaign is a bipartisan effort.
“It was entirely about just asking people to vote,” Westmoreland said. “A couple people threw in who they were voting for, but it wasn’t because we asked them to do that. It really is just trying to get people to vote. We don’t have a voice; 9:30 Club isn’t going to tell anyone who to vote for. We just think that it’s the process and participation that is critical.”
The music club has become a D.C. institution since it opened in May 1980 at 930 F St. NW — hence the club’s name — before moving to its current location at 815 V St. NW in January 1996.
In the end, why should folks come out and vote?
“Because all of these wonderful artists think they should,” Westmoreland said. “But also because you can’t complain if you didn’t try. You can’t complain if you weren’t a part of the system.”
Listen to the full conversation with I.M.P. COO Donna Westmoreland below: