When I found out that Ian Mackaye—of Minor Threat, Fugazi, and The Evens—was coming to talk at Wesleyan, my 16-year-old self was ecstatic. I totally went through a phase in high school when I would sit in my room with my headphones on and listen to early punk music at a ridiculous volume—not exactly the classic punk experience, but everybody’s gotta do it their own way. And my 20-year-old self was just as psyched by the prospects of listening to this seminal figure of punk and post-hardcore talk for two hours.
MacKaye, who isn’t exactly known for using his indoor voice, was extremely articulate and thoughtful. He turned a lecture hall into a conversation, and fifteen or so questions into hours of discourse. He even got us to create an impromptu experimental music piece with everyone’s cellphones ringing simultaneously—Alvin Lucier would surely have been proud.
MacKaye took seemingly simple questions and formed sprawling answers, full of stories about the punk scene of the 1980s and ‘90s, with characters ranging from Henry Rollins and Ted Nugent to his bandmates in Fugazi, and life lessons. “Love what you do,” he said when asked to give advice for aspiring musicians. “If you fail, at least you will have loved it.” He talked about trying to get a punk band going in Washington, D.C., about his vocalist inspirations—Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker—about being straight-edge, about being Vegan (“Who does eating meat benefit?”), about the difficulty of dealing with skinheads and violence at his shows (“I don’t provide a soundtrack for violence”), and a short poem on his vision of punk rock: “Because we said so.”
I totally meant for that title to rhyme.
Frank Fineis ’13 and our Dearest Leader Zach Schonfeld ’13 has the latest in hardcore music-related Wesleyan events, as always. But this one is actually pretty awesome:
Ian MacKaye is the famously uncompromising former frontman of Fugazi and Minor Threat, current co-member (with his partner Amy Farina) of The Evens, and the founder of DC-based DIY label Dischord Records. He comes to shed wisdom on Wesleyan a few months after the release of The Evens’ latest album, The Odds—and shortly after the tenth anniversary of Fugazi’s hiatus. If you have even the slightest interest in hardcore, 1990s American indie underground, or DIY music industry ethics, this one’s worth your while.
This event is free and open to the public, so arrive early. It will also be entirely question-and-answer format, so please bring questions for Mr. MacKaye.
Before you go, you should probably enjoy some essential, required listening.
Date: Wednesday, February 27th
Time: 8 p.m.
Place: CFA Hall
Two of these shows are happening tonight, so hurry up and run to both at the same time.
The first few days of the semester have already paid witness to one of the most notable musical double headers in recent institutional memory, and tonight showcases another: Brooklyn’s Widowspeak takes Eclectic while rap legends Dead Prez take the stage two doors down at Psi U. This time you probably can’t attend both (though I encourage you to try), but weep not: the coming weeks feature one of the more diverse, thrilling, and confusingly erratic musical options in a while, ranging from waffle-obsessed rap zombies to a critically embraced laptop cult genius to Ian “Actually Ian MacKaye” MacKaye. (Lecturing, not screaming.) And that’s only the tip of the Usdan iceberg lettuce station.
As always, scope out Aural Wes for a continually updated resource for all things aural and beyond at Wellesleyan College. AW’s own concert calendar can be found here. The below list is by no means exhaustive; think of it as a small smattering of the shows on campus over the next handful of weeks. I’ll continue to add to it as additional shows are confirmed and/or bitched about in the comments section.