The Lab: Live music under a microscope


Common ingredients for a common concert: Band, booze and bouncers.

The Lab, an all-ages, alcohol-free venue situated near the Convergence Church that owns it on Quaker Lane, is no common scene. Its alcohol and age policies render fake IDs useless, so bouncers need not look to The Lab for work. Rather, the bands are the main events, their music embossed by lacking distractions.

I think those rules do enhance the musical experience, said Carol Bui who hosts Lab shows with Jay Smith, a member of the Convergence church. First of all, the focus is on the music. I mean, what else are you going to do there if you cant drink?

At its inception, The Lab was an experiment itself. The sound spot manifested from the church communitys desire to integrate more arts into its services and programs. One night, as Bui hosted a show at another all-ages venue, Arlingtons Murky Upstairs, Smith approached her about partnering up to generate more shows in a positive, safe environment for young people, and The Lab was born.

Bui and Smith became the two halves of Club Tiger Promotion, helping musicians break into the DC market by assisting them in building a following and providing them with resources in the area, according to their MySpace site. Club Tiger is also concerned with building awaeness and raising money for charities and causes, like the International Justice Mission, which benefited from their last show.

We invite the organization to present or table at the event they usually give a small talk in between bands, Bui said.

Not only does The Lab link youth with live, local music, but it plays liaison to DC area bands and their potential fans by providing a scene for kids who may otherwise miss out on the next Fugazi. After all, music is not just for the legally intoxicated, and The Lab caters to the young crowds, getting them involved in music early and safely.

Without alcohol, its not too risky, safety-wise, and theres less to clean up, Bui said. Younger audiences are a lot more open about their passion for live music, and it spreads! Theyre so energetic and get so into it, it feels awesome to put on a show, to see them have such a great time.

The Labs shows are always pretty laid back, Bui said, and perhaps thats a testament to the kind of fans it attracts those interested in music formally, not necessarily concerned about a bands or a venues image. But its also safe spot for kids to socialize, especially when the headliner is a high school band, when kids can hang out and support their friends.

Weve had some really great shows where the turnout was great, and the audiences were enthusiastic, Bui said. Since were not really metro accessible and we dont have alcohol, the turnouts are highest when we have younger bands play. Those shows do fill the floor.

The Lab has no imminently scheduled shows, but it will be a similar scene when Black Powder, Beautiful Bear (Osa Bella), and the Andalusians come to Murky Upstairs in Arlington May 17.