MEMORIES OF FUGAZI SHOWS PAST, ON THE OCCASION OF THE LAUNCH OF THEIR LIVE ARCHIVE

NPR is collecting memories of Fugazi shows for a piece they’re doing on the launching of the Fugazi Live Archive on Dec. 1. I’m not sure if what I sent will be used, or, if it is, when, but regardless, I thought I’d just throw them up here (with some meta-data!) as well, in case anyone’s interested…

1.) Fugazi at The Anthrax, Norwalk, Ct., late 1987 or early 1988 – this was one of their first shows ever, I believe, and certainly the first time I ever heard anyone suggest that slam dancing/moshing might possibly be not the best use of one’s energy. I didn’t agree at the time, but I did respect the band’s wish that the audience not mosh. However, there were some friends of theirs who’d driven up from DC and who were grabbing people in the pit, physically stopping them from dancing, which I thought was ridiculous and thuggish, if not downright fascist (in the language of 17/18 year old me, which is not a whole hell of a lot different from that of 41 year old me) and at least as bad as the negative aspects of the slamming, itself, which they were railing against; and I told Ian I thought so, in a letter I wrote in red ink. He wrote back and explained that they came of their own accord, and that he didn’t see that happening and doesn’t condone it. He also explained a little bit more about what was behind this “no slam dancing” idea – which, at the time, you have to realize, was INSANELY radical in the punk world. Years later, after I’d moved to DC and we’d become friends, he put two and two together and assured me that he still has my letter, and has occasionally threatened to embarrass me by whipping it out. But I wouldn’t be embarrassed. I’m pretty proud of the both of us for the whole interaction!

2.) Fugazi at Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ summer 1988 – The usual confrontations with the crowd over slamming came to a head when, toward the end of the quiet breakdown in the song, “Suggestion,” the walls, themselves, dripping with sweat and practically heaving, as if the room was the interior of a giant heart beating through the most important hour of it’s life, Ian says something simple, like, “Here comes the breakdown,” and an angry skin in the middle of the pit says back, “Can we DANCE to this part?” Ian looks him in the eye and says, rising from a spoken question to a scream, moving upward as the music surges to a crescendo along with his voice, “Why don’t you listen for JUST – ONE – SECOOOOOOOOOOND!!!” They crashed into the chorus off that and the room exploded. Incidentally, this was the show that the front cover of the first record came from.

3.) Fugazi at Wilson Center, Mount Pleasant, DC, summer 1997 – This was their 10th anniversary show. It was everything you’d think seeing Fugazi in a municipal rec. center basement where so many of them and the rest of the harDCore community got their start would be: noise, melody, aggression, beauty, frustration, catharsis, etc. At that point in my life, I was approaching 30 and wondering where this path was taking me. It took me, a couple of weeks ago, right back to another church basement in Mt. Pleasant, DC, which is pretty much exactly what I hoped would happen as I rode my friend’s moped all over the city until about 4 AM after that Fugazi show, thinking about it all.

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