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Instrument (1998).

March 7, 2008

The Scoop:
This documentary of the influential Washington, D.C., based punk band Fugazi lets the music do the talking, which is probably the best approach for this subject. While both the band’s music and anti-commercial stance have been revolutionary (lack of major label involvement, fan-friendly pricing, D.I.Y touring, etc.), leaders Ian MacKaye and Guy Piccotto are not necessarily the most articulate offstage spokesmen for those beliefs. Fortunately, director Jem Cohen has chosen to feature Fugazi’s music so prominently here that it makes their case for them.

The film features a decade’s worth of live performance clips, as well as extensive studio footage. Although this approach does make for some slow going in places, the end result is rewarding — a great primer on one of the true independent acts of the time. And for you young’ns, it’s an intriguing look at how bands fought the music industry monopolies in the days before MySpace and MP3s.

Best Bit:
MacKaye berating the “ice cream-eating motherfucker” for pushing people too hard in the crowd.

Side Note:
Cohen has created similar movies for R.E.M. and Elliott Smith. Check ’em out.

Companion Viewing:
“The Decline of Western Civilization” (1981).

Band page at Dischord Records site.

Take a Look:
The ice cream eater gets what’s coming to him. (The band follows with the song “Little Debbie”):

Performing “Song #1”:

Here’s “Slo Crostic”:

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