Yesterday I went to my first Fort Reno show. That’s actually kind of depressing considering I have always lived in or around Tenleytown (save for two months in Bethesda) and you’d think free concerts would be an ideal way to spend a summer’s night.
I was there to see Ian MacKaye’s new band The Evens. A confession: I have never heard a Fugazi or a Minor Threat song in my life. There’s no excuse. I’m told Fugazi is fantastic. (Note: I’ve been told this for years by my older brother who is responsible for me liking Led Zeppelin and hating The Doors. Obviously I take his musical opinions seriously. He saved me from thinking Jim Morrison was deep. Thank Christ he got to me before I went to college.) I only know of MacKaye by reputation. And let’s be honest. MacKaye’s reputation is that he and Chuck Brown are the musical centers of DC. They are local stars that shine so bright that everything else revolves around them. That’s a huge responsibility.
The Washington City Paper infamously went as far as to blame MacKaye for ruining DC’s music scene by being such a straightedge killjoy. I found the article to be amusing, but, since it was printed in such a sorry excuse for a newspaper, I didn’t consider it anything but a hatchet job. Being straight edge by no means should be equated with being a killjoy.
Well, shows what I know. The City Paper may have been right. The Evens show was an absolute disgrace. The evening was only salvaged by the good company I surrounded myself with. MacKaye’s interactions with the audience were mostly limited to:
1. Fight the power, man! MacKaye urged everyone to support Fort Reno so “The Man” doesn’t shut it down.
2. Be responsible! MacKaye mentioned an incident last year where someone set off fireworks during a concert. Now, Fort Reno wasn’t able to have Porta-Johns. His constand reminders that our actions have negative consequences that affect us all reminded me of my dad. Ian, we are not here to be lectured. We are here to listen to your supposedly great music.
3. Everyone sing along! Folks, there is nothing more depressing than an icon urging his hometown audience to sing along and failing miserably.
The entire event was embarrassing. The center of the DC rock scene was indeed a killjoy who was at least a full decade past his prime. Normally this would be forgivable. What I can’t forgive is how bad The Evens were live. Good gracious what a terrible show. Two singers with extremely limited voices put their vocals so high in the mix that you literally could not hear any guitar. Call me a traditionalist, but I prefer to hear the guitar at the concerts I attend. The Evens’s songs were at best boring and at worst poorly composed. It was amateur night at Fort Reno.
It no longer surprises me that DC’s music scene is so weak. I'm sure Minor Threat and Fugazi were fantastic. Those days are long past. One of DC's most treasured icons is now babbling shit like this:
“McKaye has stated that he is a vegetarian because he feels it's a logical progression from his view of straight edge.”
Well fuck you, Ian. I like booze and meat. I may not be straight edge. But I certainly have the “I’m not a sanctimonious asshole edge.”
If I were Ian MacKaye, I would consider shutting the fuck up and retiring gracefully. Let someone else take the reins of the DC scene. He does not rock. He does not inspire me to become a better person. He was DC's shining star. Now he's a black hole.