Fugazi Frontman Blasts 'Barbaric' Police As Tour Begins

Egalitarian punk band's Ian MacKaye offers his take on World Trade Organization protests.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Though his band was opening an East Coast

tour Thursday night, Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye's mind was partly on

the West Coast.

The wiry singer drew a huge cheer from the all-ages crowd at Lupo's

Heartbreak Hotel when he decried "how barbaric the police are, and also

how barbaric the media are," referring to protests of the World Trade

Organization at their meeting in Seattle this week. The event has stirred

the kind of political rage that has long inspired the punk band's music.

MacKaye exhorted fans to remember that "the people have the purpose"

before the band roared into the searing "Keep Your Eyes Open."

Fugazi's concern and respect for their fans was evident from start to

finish.

The Washington, D.C., band that once vowed its ticket prices would never

rise above $5 has remained true to its word: With a $3 service charge,

the Lupo's show cost $8.

Before the band began playing, MacKaye asked that some lights be adjusted

when he noticed they were shining in fans' eyes.

Later, when a shoving match broke out a few songs into the set, MacKaye

stopped the show to make sure everyone was safe. Then he used the moment

to make another comment about the situation in Seattle, wryly observing,

"Every now and then, a disturbance arises and you get to see the sexy new

wear the police are sporting. Have you seen that? They're all wearing

black."

By and large, though, Fugazi, who just completed a European tour, let

their music deliver their message, and the audience responded.

When the band ripped into "Performance Dog," the crowd seemed to surge

forward as one beast following Brendan Canty's drums and Joe Lally's bass

on each heavy downbeat. And during the fan favorite "Do You Like Me"

(RealAudio

excerpt), from Red Medicine (1995), the audience's united

voice echoed the band word for word.

MacKaye shared vocals with guitarist Guy Picciotto, a former Fugazi roadie

whose elevation to bandmember has further underscored the band's egalitarianism.

When Picciotto sang, MacKaye frequently would step back from the mic and

stand with his eyes closed.

"My only complaint is that nobody danced," concert-goer Sarah Hobstetter

said. But some serious thrashing did occur on the perimeters of the

cavernous club. The mostly young, mostly well-behaved crowd adhered to

the club's prohibition on surfing, though.

As is typical of Fugazi, the band did not make fans work for an encore.

While many other groups demand an ego-stoking eternity of clapping and

stomping before returning to the stage, Fugazi came back right away and

delivered a complex instrumental song filled with hopeful, soaring guitar

layered over raging, edgy dissonance.

Lest anyone think Fugazi's message is lost on today's youth, fan Izzy

Grinspan proved otherwise. Asked what she liked best about the show,

Grinspan replied without hesitation, "I like that they have a social

conscience."