Happy 20th Birthday, Fugazi!

For somebody that grew up before the internet, I consider myself a pretty lucky guy. In 1987, I lived close to DC and was probably one of the first thousand or so people to actuallly hear about Fugazi. Being a huge Dischord fan, finding out what was the new band on the label was always a mission of mine.

One Saturday in September ’87, I drove from York, PA to DC to go record shopping and play my luck at possibly seeing a show. I was at Yesterday and Today Records and purchased a few things with my thirty or so bucks I brought with me and heard of a show going on at the Wilson Center later that night.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t Fugazi playing that night (it was Soulside instead though) but I met a couple of fellow college students at the show that told me about the new band with guys from Rites of Spring and Minor Threat.

It was crazy, but within a couple weeks, I made another road trip to DC and I got to see Fugazi in DC at Wilson Center for the first time. Good times, good times. All I really remember is how absolutely swelteriing it was for the Fall in that room and how everybody (and I mean everybody) in that small space were chanting along and dancing with every song they played. I kept wondering if they had an album out that I didn’t know about yet. No, but later that night in the parking lot, I met a kid who said he was willing to make me a copy of this tape that was circulating through town of a Fugazi demo. I remember getting that tape the next week (with the One Last Wish album on the flip) and just playing it non-stop.

Thanks to school, my first girlfriend and a part-time job that financed my budding record buying hobby, the next few years were a total blur. I spent all of my money to drive to Philly, DC, Baltimore, Trenton and an occasional jaunt to Hoboken or New York to see music. And of course, Fugazi was "my band". I know it’d sound like an exaggeration, but until I moved to Georgia, I think I saw Fugazi around 40 times. DC, Baltimore, Newark, Trenton, Philly, Hagerstown (!?), College Park, Pittsburgh, Alexandria, Lancaster, the list just kinda rolls off my noggin like it was yesterday. And I’m not trying to brag that I saw Fugazi this much, but for a 19 year-old, I was in uber-nerd heaven.

In the early 90’s I finally finished my graduate work in Pittsburgh, pulled up my stakes and moved to Athens, Georgia. The first time I saw Fugazi in Athens was surreal. It was my first time connecting the dots that this band that I adored had "famous" friends. I remember seeing Guy cutting off a conversation with somebody back stage at the 40 Watt so he could go and bear hug Michael Stipe. For my stupid punk/indie leanings then, I just found this absolutely bizarre. And for the record, the double header they did at the 40 Watt had Shudder To Think, Superchunk and Unrest open for them. Ah, the good ‘ol days.

To this day, I’m still of the firm belief that from 1989 to 1994, there were no better live bands on the planet than The Jesus Lizard and Fugazi and I’ll gladly argue with anybody about this.

Photo Tip #42: Always put the short guy up front….

The 90’s blew by. I saw Fugazi probably 15 times in the South, a couple times in Chicago, and saw them a few times up north over the holidays. Not once did they suck. Not once.

In 2002, my buddy Garth and I decided to go over to Birmingham to see Fugazi at the marvelous Sloss Furnaces. Little did I know that it’d be the final time I’d ever see them, and they only had a handful of shows left afterwards. A bit sad, but it’s like when a loved relative dies, all you can do is focus on the good times and not dwell on the fact that they’re not around any more.

Without a doubt, Fugazi remain one of my favorite bands and one of the guiding lights of how I’ve operated in the 20 years I first encountered them. However, I know I’m not alone in saying that. They were such a profound, yet personable, band.

Sadly, Fugazi’s kind of done. No shows are planned. Brendan’s living on the other side of the country with three kids, for Pete’s sake. However, we always have the records.

In addition, Joe Lally has spearheaded the Live Fugazi Series which is sort of out of print right now, but are pretty easily found on-line. Without exception, every CD-R in the series is worth getting.

And, in honor of the 20th anniversary, Glen Friedman has collected his photos of the band in a new book titled "Keep Your Eyes Open". If you strain closely, you can see my noggin in a couple of the crowd shots. See? I have proof I was there! Kidding, kidding…..

Finally, I’m including a few Fugazi tracks that I never ever see on-line. The first four are from Fugazi’s only Peel session from ’88, a handful of tracks from their "demo" tape that I got back in ’87 and a live track from their first show ("Turn Off Your Guns") that has never made its way to a record.

Happy 20th, Fugazi.

NOTE: The video attached has Ian actually commenting on the "demo" tape that was rapidly circulating thru the scene back then prior to their first album.

Fugazi – Waiting Room (Peel Session ’88)

Fugazi – Break In (Peel Session ’88)

Fugazi – Merchandise (Peel Session ’88)

Fugazi – Glueman (Peel Session ’88)

Fugazi – In Defense of Humans (demo ’88)

Fugazi – The Word (demo ’88)

Fugazi – Turn Off Your Guns (DC ’87)