Fugazi are back!!
Well, kind of. Thursday, the first of December 2011, saw the launch of the Fugazi live series website. Over the many years that Fugazi operated as a live, touring band, from 1987 to 2003, they documented their time by taping almost all of their shows. And these shows are now being made available to buy as a digital download via the Fugazi live series website.
It is a time consuming feat of hard work and persistence. Fugazi played over a thousand shows, all across the world, with their sound engineers recording over 800 of these. Obviously, when they started doing this the internet was a thing of the future. They have admitted that at first they had no clear idea as to why they were recording the shows, apart from for posterity. Ian Mackaye told the New York Times, “As with a lot of collections, once we had a couple hundred tapes, we just continued to amass them. Why stop? We’d already gotten this far.”
At the moment, 130 of the shows have been made available for download, with more being added each month. They are all of varying quality as none of the shows have been edited in any way, which is a perfect document of the shows they played. Fugazi were an amazing live band, but like all bands they had off nights. And these will be here for all to see alongside the nights that they blew everyone away.
Fugazi are the epitome of an independant band. They made their own rules and stuck religously to them. Each show they played were all ages, fairly priced and with no merchandise, They respected the audience and in turn asked the audience to respect each other. Anyone being an arsehole was always singled out by the band and held to account for their actions, often being told to get out. Fugazi built a worldwide community of like minded people, arseholes weren’t accepted.
I got to see Fugazi play twice in London. Although they had played much closer to home. One thing the live archeive has already taught me are that the rumours that they played in my hometown are completely true. On september the 20th, 1990, I was a 10 year old boy. That night Fugazi played literally 2 miles down the road from me in the Kings Hall, Herne Bay. At the time I was more of a Michael Jackson fan but even still, I wish I could of been there. Luckily, although not yet available, the show was recorded so at some point soon I will be able to hear their set and how the crowd reacted. They also played locally in Whitstable, which has been recorded, and twice in Canterbury but these shows were sadly not recorded.
The first time I saw them was one of the most memorable shows I ever attended. May 15th 1999, I saw them play the Stratford Rex in East London. The week before the show a bouncer was shot dead outside the venue and when we arrived there was a strong security presence, some of whom had ferocious guard dogs. I had never been so scared entering a venue but this kind of added to the anticipation of seeing one of my all time favourite bands. Shellac played before Fugazi and were incredible. Then Fugazi took to the stage, at first to set up their equipment and then to remove a security barrier that Ian Mackaye deemed inappropriate. They then proceeded to completely blow my mind. There was an atmosphere like no other show I’ve been to, it was completely electric, they were loud, powerful and tighter and together then you would expect. During the first song, a very tall gentleman who had been stood at the side of the stage decided to dive into the crowd. He stayed aloft long enough for Ian to reach over and rip his backstage pass from his top and return to the microphone to announce that he wasn’t welcome back. A huge cheer went up, sheer admiration rippled through the crowd, Fugazi were here for us and we loved it. Sadly, due to the fact that the show was delayed because they didn’t want to play until everyone had a chance to get into the venue, we had to leave early to get the last train home.
I did get to see them again 3 years later at the Forum in Kentish town. That night again was special but it had more of a party atmosphere to the show. Hannah, my wife, and I had been chatting outside to people who had come from all over Europe to be there. There seemed a feeling that this might be the last chance to see the band and the crowd lapped up the two encores they played. The set from this show is now available to download and it sounds incredible. It feels like being there a lot more than most live albums you hear.
Fugazi never had a set list, they had all of their back catalogue rehearsed because they could be playing any one of those songs on any given night. Listening to the show you can see how launch into some songs with someone taking the lead with a guitar riff or drumbeat that signals which song to play. Others are more of a mystery, ‘Stacks’ for example seems to come from nowhere. A count of 3 on Brendan Canty’s drum sticks, then a bang of the snare drum and they’re in, the song is tight, no dropped beat or hurried guitar. They were just that good.
Each show is valued at $5 although if you have a different price in mind you can let them know, or you can opt to pay once and have all the shows available to you as and when. As it states on the site, it remains a work in progress and they are welcoming and photos, flyers, info or corrections to help build the collection.
It is well worth a visit to the site. If you saw them then there is an obvious attraction to downloading the shows you attended but I think it’s worth looking at the others, especially to see how they evolved as a live band.
Click HERE to go to the Fugazi live series site
I am trying to find the photos I had of when they played at the Kentish town forum and will update the blog with them as soon as I find them.