The Fall 1989 issue of Flipside had features on Pixies and an obscure bunch of weirdos from Seattle called Nirvana, but it was another new combo called Fugazi that scored the cover, with just twoEPs on Dischord and a release on the Sub Pop Singles Club to its name. Of course Fugazi started out with an impeccable pedigree: Ian MacKaye, the closest thing to the founder of the straight-edge movement you could name, combining forces with Guy Picciotto and Joe Canty from Rites of Spring.
Fugazi’s feature from that issue of Flipside featured five handwritten recipes from Ian, Guy, Brendan, and Joe, for oatmeal, pasta sauce, “dinner beans,” “spicy Pop Tarts,” and, for the closer, tea. If you think about it, recipes are very DIY, which maybe explains why the members of Fugazi so readily excelled at the art of recipe construction.
The recipes are real recipes, but there’s a good deal of humor in there as well. Ian’s recipe for tea is an extended riff on being so busy that he keeps forgetting to turn off the boiling water, and when the tea is finally ready, forgetting to drink it. In his oatmeal recipe he strikes a similar note when he forgets to return to the pot once the water is boiling. The guys seldom use a proper measurement—this is fuel, not cuisine, and also not an exact science. (Brendan’s recipe for spicy Pop Tarts is just pure fun, though.)
Guy’s recipe makes a reference to vegetarianism, and in case you’re wondering, yeah, the whole band is vegetarian, a tough trick to pull off when you are touring the United States of America as relentlessly as Fugazi did. In a way it must have reinforced the band’s DIY instincts—if you can’t rely on Arby’s to make you a veggie burger—and you can’t—then you “fill up a cooler with decent food from grocery stores and simply picnic in their van,” as Michael Azerrad put it in Our Band Could Be Your Life.
MacKaye is somewhat famously vegan, although less vocal about it than, say, Morrissey. In 2010 MacKaye said, “Our society is centered around meat consumption, and our society fucking sucks.”
If you’ve read “Understanding Trump” by the cognitive scientist George Lakoff, you might recognize aspects of “strict father morality” in Fugazi’s code. It was funny, escaping the hierarchies of home and school to attend a Fugazi show as a teenager: You didn’t know which songs they were going to play, but you could be sure they would deliver a stern talking-to about your behavior before the night was over. That was a new development in rock and roll; I doubt Gene Vincent’s audience would have stood still for such a lecture, even if Gene had been the guy to give it.
Don’t get me wrong, they were great. But the values we associate with Fugazi—discipline, hard work, sobriety, authority, frugality, self-reliance—are traditionally paternal.
That’s why it’s such fun to imagine Ween, the crowned and conquering child of 90s rock, opening for them at Trenton, New Jersey’s City Gardens on March 19, 1991. Then a crazed, wasted suburban duo backed by a tape deck, Ween was still pretty loose back then, and at least as irresponsible as the Butthole Surfers: On that year’s The Pod, they encouraged their fans to believe Scotchgard™ was an excellent high. It’s almost impossible to imagine them lecturing a crowd about stage-diving. All they demanded of their fans was to keep bringing them home-cooked food.
Apparently, the show is briefly discussed in the City Gardens oral history No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes. I had clean forgotten about it until last weekend, when, strangely enough, my copy of Flipside #84, in which I first read about this legendary bill, turned up during a long and fruitless search for my Pure Guava T-shirt. In Flipside reporter Ted Cogswell’s hard-hitting interview with Ween, conducted in January ‘93, Gener and Deaner cleared up some important points: if Pure Guava were a drug, it would be “love boat”; no, they had never really huffed Scotchgard™ (“Sorry kids”); and yes, they really had opened for Fugazi. All typos have been preserved out of respect for the indomitable fanzine spirit:
Ted: Wasn’t there an infamous show at City Gardens (in Trenton, NJ) once when you opened for Fugazi? Gene: They hated us. Ted: I heard that you guys just started, like, playing one note over and over again, and were staring into space,... Dean: No, those are just rumors. We played that Ozzy Osbourne-Lita Ford duet, “When I Close My Eyes Forever”, They hated that. Then we did “Where Do The Children Play” by Cat Stevens. Gene: And they hated that. It’s not a problem now anymore though, because people are starting to like our shows, so we can’t do “Where Do the Children Play”. We save that for, like, when we’re about ready to get shot.
There’s a label based out of Sao Paolo called (with great self-awareness) The Blog That Celebrates Itself Records, which is (of course) an offshoot of The Blog That Celebrates Itself. This name of the operation derives from a sardonic comment made by Melody Maker’s Steve Sutherland in 1990 to describe the incestuous group of bands that was playing the Thames Valley around that time, including Chapterhouse, Lush, Moose, and Stereolab. The phrase “The Scene That Celebrates Itself” has since been taken to refer to the self-admiring shoegaze movement tout court.
But now the label has released something truly special, a tribute album about a band that isn’t exactly in that early 1990s U.K. wheelhouse and isn’t known for tons of pedal effects on their guitar—the groundbreaking D.C. band Fugazi. Now, Fugazi’s aesthetic and that of, say, My Bloody Valentine are pretty different, but it turns out that there’s a higher quotient of swarming guitars in Fugazi than you probably remember, and that helps make the combination all the more delicious.
The obvious name for such a thing: “Shoegazi,” of course.
The compilation is called Steady Gaze of Nothing, a reference to Fugazi’s second full-length Steady Diet of Nothing. The compilation ranges widely across Fugazi’s discography with a strong emphasis on the early stuff—you’re likely to hear your favorites represented here.
Soft Wounds - Waiting Room
Evvolves - Turnover
Sunshine and the Rain - Merchandise
The One2s - Bad Mouth
Diluvia - Life and Limb
Rei Clone - Smallpox Champion
Cumin - Shut The Door
Harps - Blueprint
Siwomat - Larga División (Long Division)
Coaches - Suggestion
Blacksalt - I´m So Tired
Savage Cut - Brendan #1
Petal Head - Arpeggiator
The Blue Ribbon Glee Club is a Windy City-based a capella group who’ve been performing covers of classic punk and indie rock since 2007. In 2009, they released their E.P., A Capella Über Alles, on Whistler Records, the house label of my absolute favorite cocktails-and-music bar in Chicago. It should be noted that both the group’s formation and the E.P.‘s release predate the debut of that one TV show. It was about, like, a choir or something? I forget what it was called.
For the record, The Blue Ribbon Glee Club has been around since March 2007. We’re predominantly a live performance group. For us, it’s not about whitewashing rock and roll, it’s about using our voices to embody the same power and dirt that ultimately drew us to the songs we cover. But sure, some of it sounds pretty.
Gregg Foreman’s radio program The Pharmacy is a music / talk show playing heavy soul, raw funk, 60′s psych, girl groups, Krautrock. French yé-yé, Hammond organ rituals, post-punk transmissions and “ghost on the highway” testimonials and interviews with the most interesting artists and music makers of our times…
This week hardcore post-punk pioneer Guy Picciotto of musical revolutionaries Fugazi and Rites of Spring.
Fugazi, with their reasonably priced records and shows, demonstrated how bands could find their own way without the preconceived notion that you needed corporate label backing to have an impact (and a career!). The conversation explores the early days of DC punk, meeting the Cramps and legendary Atlantic Records mogul Ahmet Ertegun’s attempts to sign the band, the inspiration behind Rites of Spring and so much more…
Mr. Pharmacy is a musician and DJ who has played for the likes of Pink Mountaintops, The Delta 72, The Black Ryder, The Meek and more. Since 2012 Gregg Foreman has been the musical director of Cat Power’s band. He started dj’ing 60s Soul and Mod 45’s in 1995 and has spun around the world. Gregg currently lives in Los Angeles, CA and divides his time between playing live music, producing records and dj’ing various clubs and parties from LA to Australia.
Merchandise - Fugazi
12 x U - Wire
Intro 1 - Guy Picciotto Interview Part 1
Garbageman - The Cramps
Hey Bulldog - The Beatles
Song # 1 - Fugazi Guy Picciotto Interview Part 2
For Want Of - Rites of Spring
Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys - The Equals
Intro 2 - Funky Kingston - Rx/Toots and the Maytals Guy Picciotto Interview Part 3
Greed - Fugazi
To Hell with Poverty - Gang of Four
Police Truck - Dead Kennedys
American Ruse - MC5
Intro 3 - One, Two , Boogaloo - Rx/The Light Nites Guy Picciotto Interview Part 4
In the City - The Jam
Spectra-Sonic Sound - Nation of Ulysses
I-94 - Radio Birdman
Intro 4 - Dedicated to Love - Rx/Vampyros Lesbos Guy Picciotto Interview Part 5
(I Got a Catholic Block) - Sonic Youth
New Radio - Bikini Kill
Let’s Build a Car - Swell Maps
Intro 5 - Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag - Rx/JB’s Guy Picciotto Interview Part 6
Ahemet Ertegun Tribute
Hold On I’m Comin’ - Sam and Dave
Memphis Train - Rufus Thomas
Intro 5 - Restless - Rx/The Cobras Guy Picciotto Interview Part 7
Margin Walker - Fugazi
Intro 6 - Moanin’ - Rx/Art Blakey
Message via Lux Interior
Pay To Cum - Bad Brains Outro
This is the handbill for Fugazi’s first-ever show, at the Wilson Center, on 15th Street and Irving. “5 Dollars to Benefit Positive Force Compilation Records”—do you think they knew then how sick they’d get of hearing the phrase “five dollar show”?
The demos that the legendary DC punks Fugazi cut at Inner Ear Studio in January 1988 have led a fan-friendly, DIY existence as a tape distributed for free at shows, but with the exception of a single song, “In Defense of Humans,” which appeared on the State of the Union comp in 1989, they’ve never seen an official release. Inner Ear Studios got a bit of extra exposure last month when the D.C. episode of Sonic Highways came on HBO. Dave Grohl visited Don Zientara, owner of Inner Ear Studio, as well as Ian Mackaye of Fugazi and Dr. Know and Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains.
That all changes on November 18, when Discord releases First Demo, but you can listen to them right this minute on Dischord’s Grooveshark account. (Actually, “Turn Off Your Guns” wasn’t included on the original cassette, but the rest of them all were.)
Dischord Records, the independent punk label of immeasurable historic importance founded by Minor Threat/Fugazi/Evens singer Ian Mackaye, made an intriguing announcement recently:
In January 1988, after only ten shows, Fugazi decided to go into Inner Ear Studio to see what their music sounded like on tape. They tracked 11 songs, ten of which were ultimately dubbed to cassette tape and distributed free at shows, with the band encouraging people to share the recording.
The only song from the session that has been formally released was “In Defense of Humans,” which appeared on the State of the Union compilation in 1989. Now, some 26 years later, Dischord is releasing the entire demo including the one song (“Turn Off Your Guns”) that wasn’t included on the original cassette. The record has been mastered by TJ Lipple and will be available on CD and LP+Mp3.
This release will also coincide with the completion of the initial round of uploads to the Fugazi Live Series website. Launched in 2011, the site now includes information and details on all of Fugazi’s 1000+ live performances and makes available close to 900 concert recordings that were documented by the band and the public.
The label’s coyness about the actual release date of the demos is a bit of a drag, but it may have something to do with the near impossibility of getting timely vinyl pressings done these days. Given that these are finally being widely issued, perhaps one can hope that someday we’ll get an official release of Steve Albini’s demos for the album In On the Kill Taker? They’ve been repeatedly taken down from various blogs, but if you can track them down, you may agree with me that they kicked a lot more ass than Albini or Fugazi ever gave them credit for.
Those Fugazi Live Series pages are worth a good, thorough combing-through if you’re a fan. They not only boast an exhaustive list of the band’s concert dates (what would you give to have been at “Jan 20, 1988, East Lansing, MI, USA, Matt Kelly’s Basement?”), but also offer recordings of many of them, some made by the band, some by fans. Where they exist, the recordings are offered for sale at the price of—all together now—five dollars per show, in a surely intentional echo of Fugazi’s eminently fan-friendly move of demanding that their concert admissions be capped at $5. One almost has to half-kiddingly wonder if Mackaye’s bed isn’t literally stuffed with five dollar bills.
Since the US is evidently going to be in Iraq for freakin’ ever, it seems fitting to punctuate this post with the show that serves as the subject of Fugazi Live Series FLS0308, the Gulf War protest in Lafayette Park, Washington DC, January 12, 1991. I was in DC for those protests, but to my lasting regret, I had no idea this show was happening right in front of the White House.
John Belushi left Saturday Night Live in 1979 but agreed to appear on the show on Halloween of 1981 if one of his favorite bands, Fear, was hired as the musical guest. SNL, which was in a ratings slump, didn’t hesitate to agree to Belushi’s terms. Fear got the gig.
In order to create some excitement during Fear’s upcoming performance, Belushi contacted Ian Mackaye, who was fronting Washington D.C.‘s Minor Threat at the time.
“This is John Belushi. I’m a big fan of Fear’s. I made a deal with Saturday Night Live that I would make a cameo appearance on the show if they’d let Fear play. I got your number from Penelope Spheeris, who did Decline of Western Civilization and she said that you guys, Washington DC punk rock kids, know how to dance. I want to get you guys to come up to the show.”
Mackaye agreed to pull together some of his friends to go to New York. Little did he know that he would be in the center of one of television’s great rock and roll moments.
In an interview with Nardwuar, Mackaye describes what happened:
It was worked out that we could all arrive at the Rockefeller Center where Saturday Night Live was being filmed. The password to get in was “Ian MacKaye.” We went up the day before. The Misfits played with The Necros at the Ukrainian hall, I think, so all of the Detroit people were there, like Tesco Vee and Cory Rusk from the Necros and all the Touch and Go people and a bunch of DC people – 15 to 20 of us came up from DC. Henry (Rollins) was gone. He was living in LA at this point. So we went to the show. During the dress rehearsal, a camera got knocked over. We were dancing and they were very angry with us and said that they were going to not let us do it then Belushi really put his foot down and insisted on it. So, during the actual set itself, they let us come out again.
During the show – before they go to commercial, they always go to this jack-o-lantern. This carved pumpkin. If you watched it during the song, you’ll see one of our guys, this guy named Bill MacKenzie, coming out holding the pumpkin above his head because he’s just getting ready to smash it. And that’s when they cut it off. They kicked us out and locked us out for two hours. We were locked in a room because they were so angry with us about the behavior. I didn’t think it was that big of deal.
They said they were going to sue us and have us arrested for damages. There was so much hype about that. The New York Post reported half a million dollars worth of damages. It was nothing. It was a plastic clip that got broken. It was a very interesting experience and I realized how completely unnatural it is for a band to be on a television show – particularly a punk band – that kind of has a momentum to suddenly be expected to immediately jump into a song in that type of setting. It was very weird. Largely unpleasant. Made me realize that’s not something I’m interested in doing.”
Belushi was also among the moshers.
Fear’s SNL debut cost them future gigs with the show, clubs wouldn’t book them, and reputedly an offer from Belushi for the band to do the soundtrack of his next movie Neighbors was rescinded by the studio producing the film after Belushi’s death. All for the love of rock and roll.
Here’s a really wonderful interview with one of my favorite photographers and artists, Glen E. Friedman. Do yourself a favor and watch the video. From State Magazine:
It was then that I found that the most beautiful, gripping color photographs were taken by just a single photographer, a very young teenager, by the name of Glen E. Friedman. Glen would go on to take these skills he learnt as a kid and apply them to his other great love in life, music. What you’re about to hear is an interview I did with Glen, who describes for you, some of his favourite shots from the last four decades. It’s a journey which has taken Glen from the mosh-pits of American punk-rock with bands like Black Flag and Fugazi to the suburban streets with hip-hop where Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest and Ice-T all became subjects in front of Glen’s lens. So, less talk, more action; press play. After all, they say a picture is worth a thousand…well, you know…