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“I’m a musician,” D.C. punk legend Ian MacKaye testified yesterday at Councilmember Jim Graham’s roundtable on minors and nightclubs. “You may not know me. You may not even recognize my band Fugazi.” But many music fans across the world do, he said. And “I knowingly have not played a show that was not all ages.”
Addressing Graham and fellow councilmembers, MacKaye spoke passionately and provocatively against any action that would prohibit people below the age of 21, or even 18, from attending venues where music is played and alcohol is served.
“Obviously, this place that you’re talking about is insane. It’s insane,” he said, referring to Smarta/Broadway, where 17-year-old Taleshia Ford was shot and killed early in the morning of Jan. 20. D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board summarily suspended the club from operating Jan. 24 and a hearing is tentatively scheduled for Monday.
“The problem is the gun. The problem was that club,” MacKaye said. The problem was not the music or the age of the patrons, he said. In fact, he pointed out, venues that provide a gathering place for young people serve an important function, particularly in D.C. “I come from a community of musicians who have worked with venues like the Black Cat, the 9:30 Club,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve really tried to make music accessible.”
Then the punk star got personal. Over the years, MacKaye said he participated in a variety of benefits, some at all-ages venues. He even played a benefit for Whitman-Walker Clinic. “And you, sir, received a check,” he said to Graham, who served as the clinic’s executive director from 1994 until he was elected to the Council in 1998.
“I understand people are scared,” but “teenagers are human beings, and to treat them like fodder for predators or business people is insane,” he said, referring to earlier testimonies and councilmembers’ comments about the dangers of mixing minors with older patrons.
Also at yesterday’s hearing, Black Cat owner Dante Ferrando said he would consider selling his club if the council moved to prohibit underage kids from attending. “At least, I’d have to consider [that] if there were no other options licensing-wise.”
Graham said he would be working with the alcohol board to look at new license classes that would exempt certain music venues from a ban on underage patrons.