Fugazi, UWA Refectory, November 10, 1996

If ever there was a reason to scoff loudly and pee on a concert ticketeer’s window due to the extravagance of today’s entry prices, Fugazi provided the body-warm ammunition for any number of forthcoming events. Hailing from Washington DC, their instant accessability was guaranteed with a $15 fee, their firm grasp of independence and identification with the kids being graciously returned with an 800-strong all-ages audience.

Staged in the UWA Refectory and hailed in by a similarly-intensive set by local politic-punksters Beaverloop, Fugazi stepped under the uncomplicated white lighting and immediately laid down their ground rules in stern tones: no stagediving, have fun and look after each other. For those at their Club Original gig two years ago this was repeated and sage advice: any form of misspent agro would draw immediate and threatening glares from the PC MC and guitarist Ian MacKaye. And MacKaye is the guy that you would beg to be beside if Begbie from Trainspotting had your number.

Fugazi’s guitaronics are unlike anything in music today, their deliberate guidance of the feedback phenomenon – both as a gentle whistle under spoken word and through pounding percussive play – was tonight bound by the same tight reign that resonates through any of their albums.

Early appearances of Do You Like Me and Great Cop sent the whole crowd bouncing as one, Fugazi’s simpler though faster tunes being easy-pleasing pogoing precursors for the experimentalism to come. Thus by the fourth song the ‘Ref was near 100 per cent humidity, which was probably a tactic for guitarists MacKaye and Guy Picciotto to lubricate their well worn and sweat-bleached fretboards as well as the obvious atmosphere-enhancing affect.

With the initial crowd warmers out of the way out came the tense musical passages and dialogue, the likes of Birthday Pony and Forensic Scene combining their disconcerting bleeps and powerful verbal expressions to the foremost effect. Sometimes starting with delicate muffled picking, the crowd would hush for long moments to suddenly launch themselves into the air for an explosive passage, the two frontmen falling around the stage and never losing footing or form.

A pensive encore of Instrument, Rend It and the beautiful Sweet and Low was just enough for the guitar devolution to be complete. More than entertainers, Fugazi fuel a totally different way of looking at and thinking about music (and the music business). They command respect in so many ways – their ethics, their politics, and most of all their music – that simply leaving the venue into the sweet evening air bred communal discussions about any number of the above topics. Call it empowerment, maybe.

Adam Connors