So, every year at FFF, there are one or two bands that seem like (FFF organizer) Graham Williams specials: Stuff designed for him to stand at the side of the stage and sing along (or possibly stage dive).
This is not a knock; the bookings are not indulgences, not really. People come out for vintage hardcore acts such as Gorilla Biscuits and Madball, two bookings from earlier FFFs.
But there was something about Dag Nasty (who existed from 1985-1988 with reunions in 1992 and 2002) playing Fun Fun Fun that seemed like the ultimate Graham Williams move. Not only was the vintage DC punk band playing, they were going to be performing with original singer Shawn Brown, who was in the band just long enough not to be on any albums. (in 2010, Dischord Records released “Dag with Shawn,” an LP of the often-bootlegged recordings Brown made with the band.)
Dag Nasty continued with singers Dave Smalley and then Pete Corner, creating several beloved albums and having a career and everything. Baker famously went into hair metal with Junkyard
After Brown split, he formed the terrific punk act Swiz, then a few lesser known bands. He reunited with some Swiz folks to start the band Red Hare a few years back.
Reunion shows can go any number of different directions, so when Dag Nasty took the stage – Brown, guitarist and sole constant member Brian Baker (he of Minor Threat and Junkyard fame), bassist Roget Marbury and drummer Colin Sears — the audience was enthused but very slightly cautious
It was absurdly, ridiculously fun.
Brown, now a tattoo artist and a bit heavier than 30 years ago, was a thrill to watch, as was Baker, still whippet skinny in the rock-n-roll manner. With melodic basslines, anthemic riffs and Brown’s everyman yell, songs like “Can I Say,” “Thin Line” and “Circles” roared to life. The band even broke out a Swiz song, “Ghost,” exactly the sort of deep cut that made assembled eyeballs pop and fists go into the air.
It was also a sharp reminder that hardcore was very much a regional music, that those sounds were very much of a time and place, that a label such as DC punk label Dischord was essentially a folk label, documenting the sound of middle-class kids annoyed at the world.
Say what you will about reunion shows, but these were the folks that made that music, in front of us, tearing it up.
Is it too much to hope for Swiz next year?