Friday, November 21, 2008

District of Columbia

DC, Capital City!
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

OK, so I had to look it up, but I almost remembered the whole thing on my own... I forgot the whole 'Blessings of liberty' part... I guess I shouldn't expect blessed liberty for myself OR my posterity...

I also realize that the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia, not Washington DC, but it's the nation's capital, a nation built on the Constitution, a constitution that begins with the words above, words I had to memorize in the fourth grade and kind of still sort of remember now...

But this isn't about the history of our nation, this is about the history of music and DC's music history is all about jazz, R&B, and especially hardcore.

We'll get to that, but first, some fun facts from the Capital

- Washington DC was founded on July 16, 1790, making Washington DC 188 years and 2 days older than me.

- Washington DC is a planned community designed by world renowned French architect, engineer and city planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant.

- L'Enfant's name is French for 'Pete the Baby'

- Washington DC has a total land area of 68.3 sq. miles, broken into 4 quadrants of unequal area radiating from the Capitol Building. A bit full of ourselves, aren't we Congress?

- Washington DC used to be 100 sq. miles, but in 1846 the portion of the city ceded by Virginia was returned.

- The District cited the area 'not fitting' as the reason for the return.

- Virginia offered something in an alternate size, however DC chose to receive store credit instead.

- To this day, Washington DC still has credit at all Virgina 7-11 stores in an amount equal to a lifetime supply of free Slurpees.

- Moving forward, I choose to divide the whole of the world into 4 equal quadrants radiating from me. These quadrants will be known as Totally Awesome, Mostly Awesome, Sort Of OK, and Completely Sucky.

- Don't stand to the South East of me, if you know what's good for you.

- Washington DC has it's own flag, apparently feeling that the flag of the whole friggen' country isn't enough for it...

- Residents of Washington DC are expected to pay Federal income tax, just like the rest of us, however, the capital city does not have any dedicated Congresspersons or Senators.

- I guess since they get taxed and not represented, the least we can do is let them have their silly extra flag...

- The Washington Post, the District's leading daily newspaper is world famous for it's coverage of national and international politics, and for breaking the Watergate scandal.

- For some reason The Washington Post still has a sports section, in spite of the fact that no professional sports team from Washington DC has ever won anything, and likely never will.

- OK, so The Redskins have won 3 Superbowls, that still doesn't change the fact that the WaPo's 'Sports Section' is completely useless, much like The Nationals, The Capitals, and The Wizards.

- Washington basketball USED to be OK when they were The Bullets, but then they got all 'PC' and lame...

But enough about all that nonsense, let's pick some artists!:

I am no great fan of Motown. I'm actually pretty anti-Motown across the board based on the fact I was exposed to A LOT of it growing up with LA's KRTH 101.1

I mean really, there ARE other artists of the 60's besides The Supremes, K-Earth... Give a break already!! Or if you'd prefer, 'Set me free why don't ya babe, get out my life why don't ya babe, cause you don't really need me...'

You get it...

The main exception, and there are a few, to my anti-Motown rule is Washington DC's Marvin Gaye. Likely because Gaye wasn't about the 'you-write-it-I'll-sing-it-somebody-will-come-up-with-a-dance-routine-to-it-and-we'll-all-wear-blue-tuxedos-and-perform-on-Bandstand' Motown formula. Marvin Gaye was about writing and singing his own material, or at least being involved in the arrangement and production on his albums, a practice that is second nature across almost all pop genres today.

The persistence and self-assuredness of Gaye when promoting his timeless classic What's Going On simply changed the whole genre of R&B. After it's success despite no real financial backing, artists were given more control over the tone and content of their recordings and due to the success of the What's Going On LP, the concept album found roots in soul, not just art rock.

Marvin's later work, just before his death at the hands of his father, are seen as quintessential examples of R&B romance tracks popularized in the 70's by both Gaye and Barry White. Gaye's Let's Get It On being responsible for countless children born since it's 1973 release.

Gaye's untimely death while intervening in an argument between his parents was a tremendous blow to the music industry, sending ripples that persist to this day with tribute albums, songs in Gaye's honor, and soon, two biopics are scheduled for release detailing the rise and fall of this American Icon.

Please to enjoy The Prince of Soul's What's Going On/What's Happening Brother

Band: Fugazi

Not as memorable or influential as Gaye, but certainly harder, and more evocative of the DC hardcore sound that has dominated the area since the mid 1970's, Fugazi was a DC hardcore supergroup made up primarily of Ian MacKaye, vocalist and front man for hardcore's grandpappy starter band Minor Threat and Guy Picciotto former singer, guitarist and founder of Emo's GREAT grandpappy Rites of Spring.

Fugazi further illustrated the stylistic differences of DC hardcore bands like Threat and Bad Brains from their peers like LA's Black Flag and New Jersey's Misfits/Samhain/Danzig by mixing their hard edged punk sound with funk and reggae back beats. Fugazi also separated themselves from the pack with MacKaye and Picciotto's innovate dual-lead guitar style, kind of a punk/metal/funk version of 'dueling banjos'.

Fugazi has not officially broken up, instead choosing to refer themselves on a 'hiatus' since contributing to the 2002 compilation 20 Years of Dischord during which time Picciotto has continued producing with Dischord Records, MacKaye has gone on to record with a new band, The Evens, Joe Lally with Ataxia and Brendan Canty with Garland of Hours.

Here's Fugazi's classic Waiting Room complete with moshers!

Hononable Mention: Henry Rollins

Would any trip through DC be complete without visiting Henrietta Collins and the Wifebeating Childhaters?

Before he was fronting Black Flag, lifting weights, beating up audience members, going on spoken word tours, doing a turn with David Lynch in Lost Highway, hosting his own show on the Sundance channel, or speaking out for equal rights Henry Lawrence Garfield was a skinny, angry DC kid making his way into the local hardcore scene with his first band State of Alert.

SoA didn't make it very far, but it did give Rollins an excuse to hang with other rockers, and eventually offer the LA band Black Flag to crash on his couch while touring the DC area. That relationship turned into occasional turn on stage with BF, and eventually into a full time singing gig when Flag vocalist Dez Cadena, himself a replacement for Chavo Pederast, the 2nd Flag singer replacing the original Keith Morris who left to form Circle Jerks, decided he'd had enough of singing and wanted to focus on guitar.

For Black Flag, the fourth time was the charm. Rollins became the most prolific, and most recognizable member of Black Flag of all the seventeen members associated with the band during their 1977-1986 history. Rollins' hard edged style extended beyond the songs. He was well known for grinding his teeth and pacing the stage before shows, getting into verbal and physical altercations with the crowd during shows, and creating rifts between band members with his desire to move Flag into a more metal centered direction.

Finally, in '86, the Flag had flown, and Rollins moved on to form The Rollins Band, having already toured as a solo spoken word artist even while still fronting Black Flag. The Rollins Band found more commercial success than SoA or Flag ever had, their top 40 LP Weight earning them a shot on stage at Woodstock '94, catapulting Rollins into the mainstream, where in his slightly mellowed age, he embraced his stardom through acting, sitting for interviews, and heavy political activism.

Here's Henry's '94 smash Liar

Next time: No rest for the wicked, Florida is already written and just needs some last minute prettifyin', so get reading!!

1 comment:

Michael Doss said...

That's a mosh pit I can believe in.