As we got off the metro at Tenleytown Station and began to move toward the escalators, it was
apparent that the weather was no longer in our favor. Water was streaming (no...gushing) down the
metal barrier in between the escalators, and as we ascended up toward the street, we could see and
feel the downpour in full effect. The time was around 5:45, the date - August 7, 2000, the place -
Washington D.C., the occasion - Fugazi.
To my left, a tall darkheaded kid in an Iggy Pop and the Stooges shirt and those thick birth control
glasses (the standard army issue) looked over at us, rolled his eyes, and made a mad dash out into the
rain. My friend Rick and I had been walking for eight hours in the 93 degree weather, sweating to
death, and of course did not have the foresight to buy an umbrella. What? Rain? On the day of Fugazi?
It wouldn't dare! So, discouraged and unprotected from the torrent, we started running down the
street. We weren't sure where we were going, but we both voted it had to be "somewhere that sells
coffee." What do you know, but God put a Starbucks right there by the metro. Soaking, we ran inside
and up to the counter, where a dreadlocked kid brought us some coffee. Whoever it was back in the
day that had the crazy idea to make a drink from beans (I mean who drinks beans, right?) gets mad
props from me. We sipped our coffee and bemoaned the rotten luck that always seemed to follow us,
our legs aching, and clothes sticking to us.
As we sat there contemplating wasting four hours of driving, eight hours of trekking across D.C., and
like seven bucks on nasty street vendor hot dogs for a trip to D.C. to NOT see a Fugazi concert, the
rain started to subside. Rasta-man at the counter gave us directions to the park (which took us all the
way to the next metro stop but nowhere near the park) and we set off. It was still drizzling a bit, and
water was dripping off the trees everywhere, but it seemed the show would go on. After more than an
hour of walking the wrong way (despite my instincts - no one listens to me, I'm just a chick) we finally
made it to the park. As we came up and over the hill, sliding through the mud and dodging cars along
the way, we saw the great Fort Reno Park.
Basically, Fort Reno is a field (a hilly field) with a very big tree. The stage is about a 17x12 ft. flat
wood surface about six inches thick, about four feet off the ground. No shelter, no big lighting rig, no
ladders to climb around the top of the stage, just field, stage, sky. That's it. As we came over the first
hill, there were several tables set up parallel to the sound control tent with political propaganda, flyers
for local band performances, CDs, and other miscellaneous constructive, activist stuff. The crowd was
very young, mostly under 25 I would say, and clean looking. Not much of the insta-punk crowd was
represented, no jerks that you would see at a Metallica concert or Ozzfest trying to mosh their way
over the little people to get to the front, just a very young, very politically charged crowd. Fans of
music. Not fans of the radio or fans of MTV, but fans of talent with a message.
The opening band, The Vertebraes (or Vertebrates - I must confess I know nothing about them) was
already on. Nothing remarkable to say about this three piece except that the guitarist was a chick with
a beautiful white SG, and the drummer and bassist kept switching places, making for a very diverse
sound. I wish I could listen to them again, more closely next time. While they warmed up the crowd,
Rick and I had the chance to meet Ian and Guy. Very cool.
If you are a frequent concertgoer like I am, you're used to certain rules. The stage is usually separated
from the crowd by some sort of barrier - fence, wall, large muscular guys with thick necks - and there
is definitely a "backstage" area where the peons arenít allowed. Not so with Fugazi. They had all their
crap in like an í88 Dodge Van and were all walking around, talking to kids, helping the other band
keep their stuff straight, etc. We literally just walked up and said, ďHello Ian MacKaye, legend of punk
rock, original straightedge kid, musical genius. How are you?Ē Well, okay, we didnít say anything quite
that nerdy, but we did chat with Ian for a few minutes on skating at the new Vans park in Potomac
Mills. Weíre supposed to meet up with him next month sometime. Guy was just as cool, and talked
with Rickís buddy Anthony from Norfolk about his band. He took Anthonyís CD and promised to
give it a listen.
Alright, since this is a concert review, on to the freakin concert already. It started to get dark, and the
rain was still trying to ruin everything. By this time the rain itself wasnít so bad, but when youíre in an
open field, the amount of lightning we were dealing with was a little disconcerting. The wind had also
picked up considerably. The guys went on, after a lengthy discourse by some chick from a local radio
station and a Fort Reno sponsor. The rain was a little painful since the wind was blowing so hard, and I
knew it was not helping Fugazi to sound any better. Their stage guys were trying their best to cover the
back of their amps and the big speakers with garbage bags, and putting everything available from
coolers to shoes on top to hold them down. I was a little nervous about all the water that was dripping
off Guyís black Rickenbacker and Ianís trashed out SG. Electrocution was a frightening possibility.
The show was close to perfect. We heard many well-known Fugazi classics as well as some rockiní
new ear candy. Joe surprised the crowd when he took the mic on Recap Modotti. Evidently bass is
not his only gift. Ian changed up the lyrics a bit during Bad Mouth and his vocals on Bed for the
Scraping made us realize how much a live performance can change a song for the better. Guyís
unheard-of vocal diversity was clearly evident in his performances of Turnover and Forensic Scene,
and when he belted out - You make yourself so beautiful, and now I feel like Iím going to set
myself on fire Ė at the beginning of Margin Walker, the crowd started their own little sing-along. The
real Fugazi fans emerged when the band busted out the number youíll only hear live, Furniture. They
jammed out several new instrumentals and had the crowd rockiní the whole time. Brendan kept a
constantly changing beat, making for a veritable wall of sound that ran one song right into the next.
The rain and lightning, while putting the crowd a little on edge, didnít seem to phase Fugazi. The stage
was really wet, and Guy slipped and fell at one point, but played it off really well by just wailing on his
guitar while laying on the stage. During Keep Your Eyes Open, Ian and Guy were getting each other all
riled up by jumping around the stage. On one particularly high, spinning jump, Guy got smacked right in
the face with the headstock of Ianís guitar. Ouch! No blood though. Ian gave a lengthy little sermon on
the August 1 arrests at the Republican National Convention, and encouraged the crowd to not stand
silently. He is so all about revolution.
Around 9:15 or so, we knew what was coming. When the band went off, we were bound and
determined to get our encore, and after being cheered back onto the stage, they played a good chunk
of the End Hits album. Ianís raw but sweet voice on No Surprise and Closed Captioned went right
into us. Just about the time we were all mellowed out, Fugazi ripped apart the ultimate jam,
Arpeggiator. The positive, almost electric reaction of the crowd could be felt as well as heard. The
stark contrast from the loud intro to F/D with Ian singing -son of a gun and knife and bomb - to
Guyís a cappella ending of - we always sell what we canít own - left us stunned. They left us,
soaking wet and dazed, but at least not fried by the lightning. This was a truly priceless concert
experience, and thanks to Fugaziís commitment to the kids, the cost was just that.
The guys deserve way more recognition than they get, and although Iím glad they havenít sold out to
corporate radio (I donít think Iíd listen to them if they did), sometimes I wish more kids knew about
bands like Fugazi. I donít approve of the dumbing down of Americaís youth, who are being trained
that just because bands like Godsmack and Limp Bizkit get played on the radio and MTV, they
deserve credence as a talented group of musicians. They donít make Ďem like they used to anymore.
Fugazi can whip you into a frenzy, get you ready to take on the political world by storm, make you
love someone, confuse you, lift your spirits with one song, and send them crashing down with the next.
Never has there been such complete diversity in a band Ė from music to message, Iíll be rockiní out to
Fugazi for as long as I can.
Thanks a bunch to Amber Nussbaum