Filed under: Music
Last night, for the second time in a month, I met someone who lives in Hanoi and has interviewed Ian MacKaye. As with the first person I met in Hanoi who had interviewed Ian MacKaye, I met her at Tadioto. (It’s almost redundant to say that something I did at night in Hanoi happened at Tadioto, as this is the only place where anything ever happens to me at night in Hanoi. Similarly, it would be redundant to say that Tadioto’s owner-publican, the great Nguyen Qui Duc, was present, since Duc is present at everything that happens in Hanoi.) The first person who had interviewed Ian MacKaye was from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The second was from Adelaide, Australia.
Anyway, what struck me in part about each of these very interesting people was that they were far too young. The second is 28. The first was, if I recall correctly, also 28. Yet each said they had spent their teens as huge fans of Fugazi and related period bands. What were they doing listening to the same stuff I had listened to at that age? Shouldn’t they have been listening to something that came along 13 years later, and which I knew nothing about, having in the interim become a pathetic old fogey?
Both cases felt rather bizarre. On the first occasion, I had earlier that day gone looking for a video of “Waiting Room” for posting purposes and found, by chance, one of a December 1988 Fugazi show at the Wilson Center where I had been present. I then walked into Tadioto, was introduced to a young man from Albuquerque with a nice full beard, told him I had grown up in Washington in the ’80s, and found him interrogating me about Fugazi.
The second case was yet more thematically crisp: I had just read David Hajdu’s interesting piece in The New Republic lamenting the way Guitar Hero seems to have frozen young people in a pastiche version of the classic-rock musical universe of his youth. I then walked into Tadioto, got into an interesting hour-long political discussion with a young woman from Adelaide, then moved on to describing the Hajdu article and said it reminded me of how I had earlier in this very bar met a young fellow who turned out to be a huge Fugazi fan and had interviewed Ian MacKaye…at which point she responded “I interviewed Ian MacKaye!”
Both of us then agreed that the fact that the internet makes the visual and audio reality of earlier musical and stylistic epochs instantly available has indeed to some extent frozen people’s creative impulses and channeled them towards reproduction or burlesque rather than cross-pollination or innovation. (She contrasted this with the mail-order vinyl and zine epoch of her teenage years.)
In retrospect, however, I’m not sure that recognition of Fugazi signals these late-20-somethings had been captured in an infinite regressive loop; I’m not actually sure it’s any different from the time-lag on which my generation experienced music. We listened to classic rock all through high school, at a time lag of 15-20 years, along with Elvis Costello, the Clash and the Specials at a time lag of 5-9 years. By college we were all constructing iconographies of “seminal” work, which you might decide included anything from the Damned to Queen to Sun Ra at removes of anywhere from 10 to 30 years. So maybe it’s all the same thing.
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