If you are a fan of Fugazi, the D.C. rock scene, or independent rock in general, you owe it to yourself to read Michael Little’s well-written and insightful article entitled “In on the Killjoy” in this week’s Washington City Paper.
To sum up a rather lengthy article, Little contends that Ian MacKaye‘s ethical and moral posturing that is consequently engrained in his brand of rock stands in stark opposition to the very nature of rock ‘n roll. Anyone who knows anything about Fugazi knows that this aspect of the band is quite conspicuous: “Fugazi’s shows have long had the annoying tendency of morphing into civics classics where an ever-watchful Mr. MacKaye, who unlike Mr. Kotter doesn’t suffer from a sense of humor, condescendingly encourages people to be nice and keep their hands to themselves. Let’s face it: Ian missed his calling. He should have been a preacher. But good rock doesn’t preach. Shit, telling the preacher to go to hell is what rock ‘n’ roll is all about.”
Little, however, takes this argument one step further by arguing that MacKaye and his self-righteousness inhibit the Washington D.C. independent rock scene:
“Thanks to MacKaye & Co., the city that once brought us the great Angel – the fantastically coiffed anti-KISS whose elaborate live shows in the ’70s were most likely the inspiration for some of Spi¨nal Tap’s proudest moments – is now overrun by earnest people who support earnest music, form earnest bands, come together to hold earnest benefits for earnest causes, and in turn encourage whole new generations of impressionable kiddies to do the same. Why, it’s enough to make a body ill. One can only imagine what it would be like to live in a town where the pool of rock is untainted by integrity. D.C. is the Vatican of earnest rock, and we kindly ask you not to smoke, snicker, or mosh.
It has to stop. Somebody has to give the deprived children of Washington, D.C., the chance to grow up to be depraved, no-account rock ‘n’ roll animals. Somebody has to teach them that rock is not about increasing awareness of social injustices or about making better citizens – it’s about having fun and making a fool of yourself before life gets around – which, believe me, it will – to doing it for you.”
These comments are thought-provoking in that they evince the importance of a local rock scene to a community. On the other hand, it seems that the disrespect for Fugazi and its collective accomplishments is unwarranted, if not heretical. Sure, this article is at least partly tongue-in-cheek; but there is clearly a sincere side to it as well. I don’t need to defend Fugazi — their credentials will speak for themselves. But I do find laughable Little’s inability to live it up rock ‘n roll style at non-hardcore, non-emo events in D.C. Or does he just want others to get their Joey Ramone on?
I doubt the D.C. scene is as uniform as Little portrays it, though I fully understand that Fugazi’s shadow looms large. Little’s article, however, begs the question: in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, why does one need a diverse local scene? Variety and frequency of live acts seems to be the obvious answer. But given that Little is in one of the nation’s most fertile rock markets, I would think that Little could attend a nightly rock show, work it Old-Style (or relish in others’ lechery) and not get bored. It’s clearly not community pride: “It’d be nice to see D.C. become the nation’s next hotbed of old-fashioned, juvenile-delinquent-friendly sleaze rock.”
So maybe, then, Little’s point is a political one: To shove some nice sleaze rock in the face of one of the worst presidential administrations in the last century would be kind of fitting. Little writes: “What better place, after all, for a teenage riot than right here in the World Capital of Sleaze, where life is cheap and lies with George W. Bush’s face on them are the coin of the realm?” Finally, a workable argument. But, as an outsider who doesn’t give two shits about the prurient interests of the D.C. rock scene or demanding a change in rock scenery only to shove it in Shrub’s face, I believe the independent rock community depserately needs its most vocal and upright leader in our nation’s capital. And that instance of local activism is shoving it in Shrub’s face.
For more independent rock commentary, visit No Matter What You Heard.