When the final swinging note was played and the Young Lions put down their instruments for the last time, the Bohemian Caverns erupted into earth-shaking applause. Tears were shed. Backs were clapped. The Bohemian Caverns closed their final set in a celebration, not in a funeral.
With one last hurrah on Sunday, the Bohemian Caverns closed their doors due to financial troubles after a ten years of fostering local D.C. jazz talent. The band and a dozen of guest musicians played to a family of jazz lovers for a memorable closing night.
The Bohemian Caverns was a small space, made all the more intimate by the cramped standing area near the bar and the low-hanging “rock” ceiling. Everything from the stalactites to the bumpy pillars were painted in earthy browns and grays, although some of the paint had chipped away with age.
“The Last Hang” started a little after 9 p.m. to a room of about 40 people. Patrons continued filing in long after the first set was underway.
It was a concert like no other: The front tables were reserved by jazz musicians from all walks of life, and after one quadruplet played, other “cats” were called up by name. Musicians improvised classics that the audience recognized as time-honored favorites.
“It’s all improv, but everybody knows the tunes,” Pete Muldoon, a jazz guitarist who attended the final concert, said. “They can harmonize off the beat.”
The first set started off strong, with the musicians feeding off the applause and spiraling faster and faster into dizzying riffs, while the audience whooped ever louder in a frenzied cycle.