“I’m still in the middle of these fucking taxes, but yeah, I can take a break.” Ian MacKaye is on the phone. He is a busy dude with a penchant for doing everything himself — today, that includes assessing his 2013 income, which is derived from speaking engagements, selling records through the Dischord label he started in 1980, and playing out with his band The Evens. “But at the moment,” he says, “the chamber of my brain that’s involved with getting The Evens on stage isn’t available because I’m busy dealing with the Fugazi Live Series.”


Fugazi is a group of musicians steeped in the history of punk rock — MacKaye also fronted the legendary hardcore band Minor Threat as a teenager. But the band was intent on doing something with the sound of guitars, drums, and vocals that was completely divorced from the hammering barre chords and frantic drumming of the early ‘80s. That led to an oddly catchy brand of precisely executed rock that evolved over the course of seven albums and relentless touring.


Between 1987 and 2002 Fugazi played more than a thousand shows all over the world. While it wasn’t a particularly jammy band in the tradition of the Grateful Dead, Fugazi never used a setlist. This allowed the songs to flow into one another organically so that every performance had its own distinct sonic footprint. More than 800 of them were recorded to cassette and DAT tapes, which piled up over time. Five years after the band went on hiatus, an NYU student named Peter Oleksik was looking for something to do for his graduate thesis in moving image and archive preservation. He met MacKaye at a book fair in 2008 and learned about the unorganized archive that was languishing in his old bedroom. “I was like, ‘Hey, would you mind if I came down in January and did my thesis on this?’ And he was game.”