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Music

The gig that changed Ian MacKaye's life

In terms of eminent musicians, it doesnt get much more revered than the master of all things hardcore, Ian MacKaye. In many ways, he is the founding father of the hardcore and straight edge movement, and through his work in Minor Threat, Fugazi and with his work with the independent powerhouse Dischord Records, MacKaye has spread the gospel of an ethical way of life and the power of music as an equally as gregarious force.

When it comes to his extensive career and back catalogue, MacKaye is unmatched. Growing up in the strange “cultural void” of Washington D.C. in the 1960s and 1970s, the social turmoil and lull that the socio-economic climate of the time brought stoked a fire in him that would lead him to form one of the most influential short-lived bands of all time, Minor Threat, who would go on to be credited with saving the US capital’s punk scene from itself, and by proxy, the world.

The band were angry yet artistic, and it was over the brief band’s existence from 1980 to 1983 that MacKaye would lay the foundations for all punk worth its salt moving forward, as well as that of his next outfit, Fugazi, punk’s most eminent supergroup that also featured former members of one of D.C.’s other most consequential but short-lived groups, Rites of Spring.

Running parallel to his musical work is MacKaye’s efforts as the co-owner of the independent label Dischord Records, who have always done things their own way and invariably shown that the label can work for the good of the artist as well as society at large, leading by example – which is something that comes naturally to Ian MacKaye. 

Although MacKaye has been one of the most lauded figures in music for an age now, he, like the rest of us, credits one moment in particular for truly immersing himself in music, an experience that also set him on his path to becoming an icon and champion of the people.

Sitting down with Loud and Quiet in 2015, the former Minor Threat mastermind revealed that it was actually a live show that changed his life, courtesy of everyone’s favourite psychobilly’s The Cramps, in February 1979. Brimming with around 800 colourful characters, MacKaye recalled that there were “so many freaks”.

“I thought, ‘I’m home,'” he explained. “Because in my life I wasn’t partaking in what everyone else was partaking in I felt different and I felt marginalised.  Then I found myself in a room full of people who, for varying reasons, where the same. Maybe they were junkies, maybe they were transgender, maybe they were politically anarchistic, who knows? Whatever it was they were in that room and they were full of ideas and that’s what I was looking for – ideas, people who were interested in kicking around some thoughts instead of letting things get blurry.”

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