Fugazi Memories: My Tape Archives

I didn’t realize Fugazi was releasing every one of its concerts as a live recording until my wife forwarded me this blog post by Ted Leo.

As many of my friends/readers know I am an avid music fan, former writer and chronicler of concerts.

When I was covering music, everyone asked me what my favorite band was. Kind of like how people ask me what my favorite car is now. I would always answer Pearl Jam…and Fugazi.

I still remember the first time I saw a Fugazi CD. My friend Dan Yuter pulled out a copy of Repeater + 3 Songs. This was more than 20 years ago and I still remember that stark white CD popping out of that blue metal locker at our high school like it was yesterday. Actually, I probably remember it better than anything that happened yesterday.

It took me seven more years before I got to see the band play live. Over those years I devoured the rest of Fugazi’s catalog on CD and vinyl and when they toured on End Hits I got to see them twice when I was in college.

The first show was in Columbus, Ohio: May, 6 1998. I was actually attending Indiana University at the time and my buddy Jonathan Cohen came along for the ride. We set up in the front of the balcony at the Newport Music Hall. Cohen and I were tapers and I had my DAT rig running the entire show, which sounded amazing. I still remember seeing the girl below us scream out “Reclamation!” as a request and the band playing it seamlessly…you can hear it on my tape.

Two days later, another buddy Rob Bola and I headed to Cincinnati to see Fugazi play Bogarts. The club didn’t have the same great acoustics of Newport, but the tape still came out pretty stellar. I don’t remember that show as vividly as the first obviously, but it was still one of the better musical performance I’ve ever witnessed.

I saw Fugazi the final two times after graduating college and moving back home to South Florida.

The first show was at The Edge…or The Chili Pepper or whatever they were calling the 1,000 capacity venue in downtown Fort Lauderdale. As a local music columnist I had gotten to know the promoters in the area and one who I still call a friend, Jim Hayward, told me to come down early and meet the band. It was a pretty surreal day. I had met lots of musicians, many much more “famous” than Fugazi, but none I held on such a pedestal.

When I met Ian and Guy for the first time I reverted to the nervous teenage music geek I thought I had left behind after breaking stories on big artists. But Guy and I sat on the curb behind the club talking about the headlines in the Washington Post, which he had a copy of. I forget what the news was about, but it was some political quagmire you would think Guy would talk about if you met him on the street, which I kind of just did…literally.

Then I went and had coffee with the whole band for twenty or so minutes before soundcheck, which I also got to watch. Watching soundchecks is still one of my favorite things ever as a music aficionado. Although watching Fugazi, Queens of the Stone Age and Brad soundcheck unfairly shaped that fondness I’m sure.

During the show I stood at the soundboard with that same DAT and mic rig from Columbus rolling. Fugazi’s soundguy was taping the show from the board to an identical DAT machine as mine. Actually, I think he had an older model. I loved the sound of that tape because the room was so loud. It was geared for heavy metal acts like Rollins Band – that I taped around the same time at the same venue.

It was such an unusual show because of this epicly loud sound. Imagine Fugazi at Anthrax levels of amplitude.

I’ve bought a few of Fugazi’s live releases and actually prefer the Columbus and Laduerdale tapes to the stark soundboard sound of the official releases. But I still plan on picking up the four shows I was at for history’s sake.

The final time I saw the band was in Orlando two nights later. Like in 1998, it wasn’t as good as the first show and there were knuckleheads in the crowd causing trouble. It was still a good show, but I remember Fort Lauderdale and Columbus as two of my favorite concerts of my show-going career.

It’s a bit sad that Fugazi isn’t still touring and making new music together as a band. I’ve spent the last year celebrating my love of Pearl Jam on their big anniversary, but I still have just as strong a love for Fugazi as I’ve always had. Hopefully this post gets shared with others who have similar memories.