Fugazi Alive And Kicking Up A Musical Storm

Ian MacKaye put rumors of the band's demise from the touring circuit to rest in Cincinnati.

CINCINNATI -- For anyone fearing that Fugazi may be on its last

touring leg, Ian MacKaye came to town last week to prove otherwise.

And the lead singer did it with more than words. He did it by putting on a

show that dipped into the past and pushed rather deliberately into the

future.

The title of Fugazi's latest release, End Hits, has sparked rumors

among fans that the band will not be touring after this year. But on

Wednesday night at Bogarts, the band's frontman, MacKaye, put the stories

to rest first with a statement. "You know, today

four different people told me this was our last tour. But I just wanted you

all to know we are not aware of that fact," MacKaye told the crowd.

"I don't believe we'd do anything quite as tacky as playing our last tour,"

he finished under his breath.

The dueling frontmen of MacKaye and singer/guitarist Guy Picciotto, who

have been the main forces behind creating the live mystique of Fugazi,

showed they're clearly musicians at the top of their game. MacKaye embraces

the punk ethos with his harsh screams and basic guitar riffs, while

Picciotto counters that with sweet singing and elaborate -- if not

screeching -- solos.

What began as a straightforward punk outfit 10 years ago in Washington,

D.C., has grown into an experimental band that doesn't seem to mind if fans

of the older material are alienated by the unconventional music on the last

two Fugazi albums. In fact, the crowd in Cincinnati was treated to a

number of tunes from each of the band's six albums -- a taste from every

period the band has seen.

"Well, what should we do?" MacKaye asked the crowd. "Not what song, just

what in general?" Taking random requests from the audience, MacKaye

weighted the show with material from In On The Kill Taker and Red

Medicine, as well as End Hits. Midway into the first of two

sets, the band had already offered powerful renditions of "Birthday Pony"

and the new song

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Fugazi/Place_Position.ram">"Place

Position" (RealAudio excerpt). Picciotto unstrapped his guitar and

began his trademark flailing dance to "Waiting Room," from Fugazi's first

LP, 13 Songs.

Unlike the band's show in Columbus three days earlier, Picciotto left his

guitar on the side of the stage for more than just one song.

After

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Fugazi/Waiting_Room.ram">"Waiting Room"

's (RealAudio excerpt) steady bass grooves quieted, the group made

a seamless transition into the guitar frenzy of "Margin Walker," also from

13 Songs. The band then started into "Bad Mouth," from the same

album. Picciotto's gyrations with his mic stand found fans in front of the

stage singing and dancing along. But the flashback wouldn't last forever.

Picciotto strapped his guitar on, and the group played a respectable

version of "F/D" and a tremendous "Closed Caption" that featured an extra

percussionist furiously playing along with drummer Brendan Canty.

The band indulged the crowd with "Turnover," a live rarity from the

Repeater album. But it also played "Do You Like Me," from Red

Medicine, and dug up "Downed City," featuring harsh vocals and a

frenzied blast of distortion. Later, "Reclamation" fell a little flat,

despite its beehive, buzz-guitar sound.

The mix of tracks wasn't lost on the diehard fans. Rob Bola traveled from

Bloomington, Ind., to see the show. "You always come away from their shows

thinking they could have played different songs," Bola said. "But they have

so many good ones, you don't even care."

Fugazi maintain a loose feel by not using a written set list. Instead, the

group maintains a certain set number of songs to draw on for each show and

then improvise the rest. The band members often decipher each others'

intros and transitions to figure out the next song. Some nights go easier

than others. In Cincinnati, Picciotto had to shout out song titles to the

others to keep the set flowing.

Toward the end of the encore, movement was at a minimum. The band pulled

out a tired "Shut The Door" to end to the show.

Unfortunately, Fugazi had put all their energy into the first set three

days earlier, and they didn't attempt a second encore at show's end.

But for even those disappointed fans the news was good: Fugazi still have a

lot of life on the road left in them.