Fugazi, Washington, DC USA 7/18/88 (FLS #0047)
This recording features the first Fugazi gig at the Fort Reno Park premises, another historic location, as it is the highest point in Washington D.C. and was once involved in the only Civil War battle to take place in the District of Columbia. Ever since 1968, Fort Reno has been the location of an annual free all-ages summer concert series.
In his August 5, 2011 article “[Your band] Played Here. Ian MacKaye, Ted Leo, Travis Morrison—and dozens of others—share the oral history of Fort Reno, D.C.’s legendary summer concert series”, Ryan Little notes that “the first concerts at the Tenleytown park were intended as a balm for a riot-scarred city. In the ’70s, before the Metro opened and the neighborhood upscaled, Fort Reno was a home for hippies and blues rockers. As the city’s DIY rock scenes blossomed, it became a place for new wavers and then punks—an identity Fort Reno has kept even as D.C. hardcore has given way to D.C. post-hardcore and today’s atomized indie-rock scene.”
According to Little, “[Fort Reno] remains an icon of the Washington music scene even as other legendary venues, like d.c. space and the old 9:30 Club, have gone away. Booking remains stubbornly local. It’s free, doesn’t advertise, and has no sponsors. A Good Humor truck is a reliable mainstay, but otherwise it’s a rare example of art without commerce.”
As mentioned, this right here is Fugazi’s first Fort Reno appearance in the summer of 1988. Fugazi would play the premises every summer from here on out, with the exception of 1990, 1992 and 1995, until their indefinite hiatus in 2003.
The high-paced Break-In kicks off this particular gig, followed by The Word which cashes in on the energy. Ian then pauses briefly to refer to some of his past personal experiences at Fort Reno, before striking up the familiar opening chord of Song #1. After this, the 7 Songs EP is played in its entirety with the exception of Bad Mouth.
Personal highlights include Bulldog Front, Suggestion and Burning. The breakdown of Give Me The Cure feels a bit rushed or cluttered though. Turn Off Your Guns has never really been a favourite of mine, even less so here as the sound quality of the vocals and pretty much everything else deteriorate drastically during this song. Waiting Room and Glueman unfortunately suffer the same predicament, since Ian’s guitar basically is the only discernible sound left at this point.
Even though the sound quality of this recording is rated as “poor”, I actually still quite enjoyed it, at least up until Turn Off Your Guns. Even though the audience (and resulting stage banter) can hardly be heard on the recording, and although the overall sound is subdued from the start (with the exception of Ian’s guitar) and Joe’s bass especially is low in the mix most of the time, you can still make out most of the performance by the band. Plus, the mix does notably settle for the better during a number of powerhouse songs such as Suggestion or Burning. There’s even a bit of an echo on the vocals during parts of these two songs as well, which adds a nice little effect.