This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #106: Waiting Room by Fugazi.
If you have ever watched a major league baseball game, you may have noticed that, when a player for the home team comes up to bat, the announcer will play a song that was chosen by the player to represent them as an athlete and as a real person. In baseball lingo, these songs are called, “Walk-up songs”. Well, if we, as regular people, had our own version of a walk-up song play whenever we showed up somewhere, I would want my walk-up song to be “Waiting Room” by Fugazi.
Fugazi was a hardcore band that formed in the Washington area. The band came from the same musical melting pot, as did Dave Grohl when he was in high school, prior to drumming for Nirvana and then, leading the Foo Fighters. The Washington music scene was quite vibrant for awhile and the members of Fugzai were all integral figures in its’ rich history. If you have never heard of Fugazi then, the temptation exists to rush to judgement and view them as just a bunch of loud noisemakers. But, to do so would be to miss out on the story of one of the bands with the most integrity of any band in this entire countdown list. They possess musical ideals which are as pure as they come. So, buckle up and settle in because here is the story of one of my favourite bands of all-time, Fugazi.
Fugazi came into existance almost by accident. Lead singer, Ian MacKaye, had been in several smaller bands and had seen them come and go and had grown tired of that cycle of musical life. So, he decided to never be in a band again but, instead, to simply find kindred spirits who liked to play and to make music with them for the pure pleasure of making Art. So, he met a drummer named Brendan Canty and a bassist named Joe Lally and they began hanging out and jamming. Soon, a friend of the trio, named Guy Picciotto, began hanging around and was soon asked to join the group and play. Well, one thing led to another and soon enough, the “band of players” started pitching some song ideas to each other. Before too long, they began stitching together snippets of lyrics and of music that seemed to work together and, before they realized it, they had enough actual songs to create an EP. And then, not too long after, they had enough songs for a second EP. Putting the two EPs together, the guys released an album called, “13 Songs”. “Waiting Room” was one of those first thirteen songs.
With an album at the ready, the guys had to decide if they wanted to do the “band-thing” again. They decided that they did but, before agreeing to tour in support of “13 Songs”, they met to discuss a philosophy on how best to be the kind of band they wanted to be but had never been able to in the past. It was as a result of this meeting, that many of the ideals that helped shape Fugazi, as a band, came to be. Those ideals are what helped to separate Fugazi form all other bands on this list. Their willingness to adhere to their own principles over time has resulted in them accruing much respect from fans and other bands. Here is what Fugazi decided would have to happen if they were to become a band:
1- The guys all believed that their music should be accessible to all of their fans, regardless of income. So, Fugazi championed the idea of the “five dollar concert”. By keeping ticket prices within reach of their fans (many of whom were teenagers), the band ensured that those most passionate about their music were the ones who actually got to see the band in person. So, no matter where they played, a Fugazi show cost only $5.00 per ticket.
2- In keeping with this theme, Fugazi made it known that they would only play “All Ages” shows. So, if a particular venue sold alcohol, for example, Fugazi would not play there. They knew their fan base tended to be younger so, they wanted to ensure that those kids would be allowed through the venue doors without having to show ID thus, Fugazi became known as an “All Ages” band.
3- As far as I know, Fugazi are the only band in this entire countdown list who do not license any band merchandise. In their own words, “Fugazi is a band, not a brand”. Even though their music might be loud and fast, it is still a work of Art and, in the minds of the band, that Art should be enjoyed for what it is, without any monetary considerations clouding anyone’s judgement. They also wanted their fans to be fans and not billboards. So, if you ever see a Fugazi t-shirt, it is self-made or an unauthorized shirt.
4- The band like their shows to be intimate; with the audience being able to interact with the band as they play. Consequently, Fugazi will play almost any venue that fits their criteria for “All Ages” shows. They have played in basements, restaurants, local parks, community halls, hockey rinks and so on. Anywhere fans can gather and they can plug in their instruents is a venue worth using, in their minds.
5- The band refuses to market themselves by doing interviews in magazines, on radio stations or any internet organziation that promote alcohol or cigarette use. Thus, Fugazi has never appeared within the covers of a magazine like, “Rolling Stone”. The band has always trusted their fanbase to do word-of-mouth advertising for them. As a result, in a career that has spanned nearly two decades, seen the band perfrom several thousand shows, Fugazi takes great pride in the fact that almost every single one of their shows has been “Sold Out” without them having to play the corporate advertising game.
6- Finally, one of the most common images one might have when you think of a Punk Rock or Hardcore concert is a mosh pit. Well, Fugazi have banned violent actors from their shows which, in turn, has seen the end of mosh pits, too. Fugazi believe that the ideal situation in a concert setting is being close to the band, while singing and dancing and having the time of your life. Again, since many of their fans are younger, Fugazi want their shows to be safe places to be. As a result, the band travels with little in the way of security and are known for policing their own shows from the stage. If they see someone starting to cause trouble, they will stop the show, talk to them from the stage (usually, in a disarmingly friendly manner) and will offer them their five dollars back. Because of the relationship the band has with their fans, instances of biligerent behaviour are few and far between.
The song, “Waiting Room” is all about having the patience to avoid rushing to judgement and ending up making bad decisions. The song is Fugazi’s most “radio-friendly” song and is responsible for many of the three million album sales the band has enjoyed over the years. “Waiting Room” is a song about waiting for the right opportunity to come along….as a band….as a fan…and holding on when the right match appears. The video that I will show backs this notion up in spades. I have played this video on FB before. It is, arguably, my favourite live concert video of all-time. While it is a grainy video from a hand-held camera, it shows everything I love about Fugazi: the intimacy of the setting, the completely in-sync relationship that exists between the band and their fans and, finally, the energy of a band who are giving their all for their Art and for their fans. If I was a rock star, this is how I would want my concert experiences to be. It may look like an insane asylum on screen but, it is musical heaven to me. When I speak of music as a joy-filled experience, this is what I have in mind and this is why I would want “Waiting Room” by Fugazi as my walk-up song in life.
Without further delay, here are Fugazi and a bunch of their best friends, or so it seems, with “Waiting Room” from the album, “13 Songs”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Waiting Room” by Fugazi, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Fugazi, can be found here……*actually, this is a bit of a trick because Fugazi have no official website, sell no merchandise., etc. So, there you go.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for giving all bands and artists a safe home for promote their Art. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.