Fans of Washington, D.C. punk legends Fugazi were stunned to see the group on the front page of The New York Times this weekend. The article in question left some fans even more dumbfounded as it revealed the existence of hundreds of live recordings of the band, along with leader Ian MacKaye's intention to begin compiling them and selling them online.
The once-prolific band have been on an extended hiatus since 2003. In their prime, they were notorious for keeping the prices of their albums and concerts affordable for almost anyone who wanted to see them. An average concert ticket was priced at $5, less than 10% of the average cost to see Elton John or Aerosmith. What was unknown until recently is that the band fastidiously recorded almost every live show they ever played.
“I’d say it was for posterity, but to what end, we had no idea,” MacKaye said. “As with a lot of collections, once we had a couple hundred tapes, we just continued to amass them. Why stop? We’d already gotten this far.”
Now fans can peruse a searchable database of concerts, which are available to purchase on a sliding scale from $1 all the way to $100, with the suggested price of $5. Super-fans can reportedly pay a one-time fee of $500 for lifetime access to the entire database. The money collected will apparently be used to fund the expansion of the ambitious project.
“We liked this idea of, ‘Let’s just let it be everything,’ “ co-leader Guy Picciotto said. “There doesn’t have to be the idea that this is the great, golden document. It’s all there, and it’s not cleaned up. You get what you get.”
Fugazi first formed in 1987 after the disbanding of Ian MacKaye's first successful band, the legendary straight-edge hardcore band Minor Threat. They maintained a commitment to the punk rock notion of DIY, eschewing major-label distribution in favor of MacKaye's own Dischord Records.
The group released 6 full-length albums before their hiatus began in 2003. Since then, MacKaye has remained busy running Dischord and producing albums for a dozen other acts including his childhood friend Henry Rollins.