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Ian MacKaye turns 50, hardcore is over the hill

Apr 16, 2012

If MacKaye’s sudden turn over the hill seems incongruous or impossible, it’s probably at least as much because of what he represented as the fact that it seems just yesterday we were all crammed into sweaty pits with distortion overwhelming our ears and fury moving our raised fists.

A pioneer of ’80s hardcore with Minor Threat and ’90s post-hardcore with Fugazi, MacKaye was a poster child for an ethos now long gone: DIY. While they sold plenty of records they refused to market them with almost monastic asceticism, distributing them through their own independent label, Dischord. While the records became pillars of ’90s music the essential Fugazi experience was their live show. They played over 1,000 of them over the years, and kept the price rigidly fixed at $5 per ticket to keep access wide open.

On the one hand the Fugazi aesthetic fits right in with today’s countercultural strains of Occupy Wall Street and Anonymous. But on the other hand Fugazi was all about potent organic experience—that which can’t be easily duplicated or diluted. In that sense Fugazi seems to have no place in the modern world where reality is woven of tweets, where our currency is information more so than empirical experience.

If you miss the old days, Fugazi’s digital archive is now online, with over 800 of their live shows streaming in full. But if you missed the old days, this will only give you a dim idea of the power the band generated live. Below, check out a classic Fugazi performance of “Turnover” during a Gulf War protest in front of the White House in 1991.

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