I grew up going to the Capital Center outside of my hometown of Washington, D.C. Back then, getting tickets for shows meant actually going to a physical location or the Capital Center itself to get the ticket. I saw so many shows there including Earth, Wind & Fire’s show that was recorded for parts of their live album Gratitude. In those days, most shows were festival style which means first come first serve. Also, smoking (regular and wacky tabaccy) was pretty much the norm. Once the lights went out, me and my mom, who was in her early 20s at the time, sat back and soaked up all of the…um…environment. Clearly, things were less politically correct back then. I also recall seeing Grandmaster Flash open for Chic, Sister Sledge, E.U. and The Jacksons who killed it with a 15 minute version of “Let Me Show You The Way to Go.” I will never forget those moments or the intermission music which ALWAYS included “Holy Ghost” by The Bar-Kays. The Capital Center was a truly magical place and I am happy that soulhead contributor Adrian Loving is blessing us with this wonderful look back. Enjoy.
“Classic Capital Center Moments” By Adrian Loving
Date: April 17, 1987
Time: 8:30 pm
Headliner: Doug E. Fresh
Supporting Acts: Salt-N-Pepa, Experience Unlimited
Ticket Price: $14-$16
Nobody did the mix of Rap and GoGo better than DC. What a unique city to appreciate the indigenous local sound mixed with the popular rap that was sweeping the airwaves on at least 3 radio stations. The Captial Centre (where i graduated High School soon after this show) was the place to be to see all your friends from MD, DC and VA and sport your fresh flatop haircut, two-tone acid washed jeans and GoGo Mickey polo or tshirt. I saved up all week from my Popeyes job to buy a ticket to this event featuring Doug E. Fresh and EU and Salt and Pepa. Classic events like this just don’t even happen anymore!
Date: October 12, 1987
Time: 8:00 pm
Headliner: Run DMC
Supporting Acts: Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, Experience Unlimited
Ticket Price: $14-$16
October 1985, I was just old enough to convince my parents to go to The Show with a group of friends without parental escort. It was Run DMC, Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers, Rare Essence and Experience Unlimited rocking the Cap Centre. I must have posed for at least 10 pictures that night in front of Mr. G’s custom airbrushed photo backdrops with countless homeboys and honeys.
Date: December 29, 1987
Time: 8:30 pm
Supporting Acts: Eric B. & Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, Rare Essence, Experience Unlimited, Little Benny & The Masters, Sweet Cookie
Ticket Price: $14-$16
This was the show! Whodini at Cap Centre..featuring Kool Moe Dee, Eric B. and Rakim and Rare Essence. I swear that I convinced 2 friends to play hookey from school with me and metro down to Douglas Records on F Street NW to buy tickets. I also bought 2 classic 12″ Vinyls that day too. Props to G Street Express, Dimensions Unlimited and Tiger Flower entertainment promoters for enriching my life back then.
More information about the Capital Center from Wikipedia:
The Capital Centre was an indoor arena located in Landover, Maryland, unincorporated Prince George’s County, Maryland; a suburb of Washington, D.C. Completed in 1973, the arena sat 18,756 for basketball and 18,130 for hockey.
In 1993, the air carrier USAir purchased the naming rights for the building and the arena became known as USAir Arena. After the airline rebranded itself in 1996, the name changed to US Airways Arena. The arena reverted to its original name of Capital Centre after the airline dropped its naming rights and its primary tenants moved to the MCI Center (now named the Verizon Center) in downtown Washington. Most TV and Radio crews broadcasting from the venue referred to it by its nickname “Cap Centre”. The venue’s name is also sometimes misspelled as Capital Center, Capitol Center, Capitol Center Arena or Capital Center Arena.
The arena has hosted many concerts, by famous artists, spanning many different genres. The arena was home to several Toys for Tots concerts in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The last time that Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin sang in concert together was at the arena. The arena was outfitted with a sophisticated in-house video system, technology not yet common in most 1970s-era arenas. As a result, a number of videos and concert recordings, many of them bootlegged, have been released over the years.
The first two volumes of KISS’ retrospective DVD series Kissology included bonus discs of late-1970s shows videotaped at the arena.
Concert videos by Van Halen (a popular bootleg recorded on October 12, 1982) and Blue Öyster Cult on December 27, 1976 (“Live 1976” DVD) and on the Some Enchanted Evening Legacy Edition CD) from the arena have also been released.
AC/DC played two shows at the arena on December 20-21, 1981, several tracks from these shows are included in their DVD set, Plug Me In. A recording of The New Barbarians’ concert on May 5, 1979, during the band’s only concert tour ever, was released as Buried Alive: Live in Maryland.
The Rolling Stones played three sold-out shows at the arena on December 7-9, 1981. Their 1982 live album “Still Life” (American Concert 1981), included three songs taken from the Largo concerts, “Let Me Go” (December 8), “Twenty Flight Rock” and “Going to a Go-Go” (December 9).
The cult video documentary short Heavy Metal Parking Lot was shot by Jeff Krulik and John Heyn on May 31, 1986, in the arena’s parking lot, comically documenting thousands of heavy metal fans as they partied before a Judas Priest concert (with special guests Dokken). (The parking lot itself was divided into four sections, with patriotic emblems, to aid patrons in remembering where they parked after an event: Liberty Bell, Capitol, Eagle and Stars and Stripes.)
Grateful Dead released two shows from their many at the arena; Dick’s Picks Volume 20 recorded on September 25, 1976 and Terrapin Station (Limited Edition) recorded on March 15, 1990 which was their bassist Phil Lesh’s 50th Birthday.
The Smashing Pumpkins played their last concert, with late touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin, at the arena.
The arena also hosted family friendly events, such as the Harlem Globetrotters, Circus America and Ice Capades, as well as numerous graduation ceremonies for high schools in Prince George’s County.
Due to their overwhelming popularity in the African-American sections of Maryland and Washington D.C., Parliament-Funkadelic performed numerous sold out shows at the venue.
The venue was demolished in 2002.
Here are a few videos we found from this era to give you a sense of what it was like to be at the Capital Center.
Rare Essence – Live at the Capital Center
Experience Unlimited – Live at the Capital Center