Fugazi were one of the best live bands I ever saw. Raw, intense, direct, explosive, painfully sincere. They only knew how to play one way – and they played it all the way. What I remember most about their gigs was the close connection between the group and the audience. Everybody had an equal role in the buzzing, churning, constantly shifting mass of energy. The above clip of them performing “Waiting Room” at the Wilson Center in their home city of Washington DC in late 1988 shows exactly what I’m talking about here. The footage was shot by Jim Spellman, who was the drummer of Sub Pop band Velocity Girl and is now a CNN journalist.
Fugazi clocked up something like 1,000 live shows during their 16 years on active service (they’ve been having what they call an “indefinite hiatus” since 2002) and a staggering 800 of their gigs were recorded by their sound engineers. A few of these were issued on CD in 2004 and now, after many years in development, the band have launched the Fugazi Live Series, a project which aims to make every one of their live audio recordings available online. It’s an ambitious plan, that’s for sure, but 180 shows have been posted in the last three months, all professionally mastered and ready to download at a suggested price of $5 each (less if you can’t afford that). The project is curated by Dischord Records, the US hardcore label owned by Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye. As well as Fugazi’s records, Dischord has also put out material by the likes of Minor Threat (MacKaye’s band before Fugazi), Scream (Dave Grohl’s first group), Government Issue, Lungfish, Nation Of Ulysses and Soulside.