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Last night’s sold-out memorial show for John Stabb at the Black Cat was originally planned as a benefit for Stabb, who led the band Government Issue for years, and who was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer. But with Stabb’s passing on Saturday, it turned into a musical wake of sorts, a send-off to one of the nicest people from the ’80s D.C. hardcore scene.
The audience was filled with fans and nearly every local musician from D.C.’s musical past. Sonic Youth‘s Thurston Moore, Jawbox/Burning Airlines/Office of Future Plan‘s J. Robbins, and psychedelic hardcore band Give all played sets, but onstage guests were frequent. The Untouchables‘ Alec MacKaye joined Give for a song, and J. Robbins and his band hosted Moore, Government Issue guitarist Tom Lyle, and Dag Nasty vocalist Shawn Brown for a few Government Issue tracks. Moore and his Chelsea Light Moving drummer John Moloney finished off the night with a gorgeous improvised instrumental homage to Stabb called “A Sonic Prayer for John Stabb.” It was different, intense, moving, and powerful, all of which were characteristics Stabb perfectly embodied.
A lovely highlight of the night came when Fugazi and Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye got up on stage to say a few words about his longtime friend. The room got so silent that you could only hear the air conditioning and MacKaye talking. The audience learned how the two first met, heard some funny stories?like the origination of Stabb’s adopted moniker (when they first met, Stabb was wearing a jacket with “The Stabb” on the back and said it was the name of his band, which didn’t exist)? and about Stabb himself. “I visited John in the hospital,” said MacKaye. “It was an incredible gift to see him in that situation. He was so alive… that was the essence of John. He was not giving up. He did all the work that one needs to do now, and during the end of life.”
The night was a beautiful send off to a man very much loved and respected for his total commitment to his music, the music other people made, the scene around him, and those who lived in it.
See photos from the show in the Gallery.Donations are still being accepted for Stabb’s widow and medical bills. Go here for more details.