So, yeah, Fugazi Live Series.
Joe Gross’s write up in Spin seemed like a reasonable starting point, but I’m going to go a lot deeper, and I’ll update this post with the results of my explorations.
001 1987.09.03 Washington DC, USA, Wilson Center
I’m going to go against conventional wisdom and say that the band’s first gig is worth listening to for historic reasons if nothing else, but absolutely not where you should start — there are only glimmers of the brilliance this band would soon achieve. This version of Fugazi is positively tentative, Ian MacKaye actually apologizes for inadequacies of the performance. If you saw them anytime in the 90s or after, this is a revelation just in how far they evolved. It’s also striking how much MacKaye’s guitar vocabulary in this trio performance includes held notes and noisy bits (which I think of as mostly Guy Picciotto’s domain) as well as the jack-hammer muted eighth-notes I think of as characteristic of his playing.15 Dec 2011
186 1990.03.14 Athens GA, USA, 40 Watt
So far my favorite of the early shows — 2 1/2 years on, they’re closing in on their 200th performance, and starting to sound like what I think of as Fugazi. Good set list. I like the “last call” announcement. 15 Dec 2011
420 1992.03.06 Washington DC, US, St. Stephens Church
By this point Fugazi is playing like the band members are reading one another’s minds. Jaw-dropping improv breaks in “Shut the Door” and “Reprovisional” are among the highlights here. 15 Dec 2011
478 1992.06.28 Berlin, GER, Tempodrome
“Suggestion” is the surprise here — it’s far from my favorite Fugazi tune, too nakedly preachy — the extended call & response break between MacKaye and Picciotto is almost chilling. “Glueman” is pretty amazing, too. I love the snare sound on this show, way upfront with a healthy amount of ‘verb. 15 Dec 2011
508 1993.03.21 Washington DC, US, Freedom Plaza
This one is remarkable in how honestly it documents what it could be like to experience Fugazi at a protest rally. This homeless rally took place in spitting distance of the White House, with repeated breaks — one thirteen wearing minutes long — while the event organizers negotiate with authorities to continue the event. Also a classic song-screeching-to-a-halt for MacKaye to request that an audience member modify his behavior. When the band is playing, they’re monstrous despite the dodgy sound (honestly/correctly flagged on the Live Series site as “poor.”) Not a starting point by any means, but gawd, it brings back some memories. 15 Dec 2011
510 1993.04.04 Charlottesville, VA, Trax
Hate to just parrot Mr. Gross, but “Promises” here is sumpin’ else. Fantastic vocal from Ian, pretty good recording of some fierce improv. The whales are angry! The run of old songs Gross mentions is also indeed intense. “Smallpox Champion” is a standout, too. Actually, the problem with this band is I want to claim almost every song is a standout. Audiophiles might want to start somewhere else, though.16 Dec 2011