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Faraquet Reunite to Splinter Again

September 19, 2008
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Faraquet | Image by City Paper Digi-Cam

If there’s one tradition that defines the Washington’s Dischord Records, it’s the transience of many of its acts. With a few long-running exceptions, like Fugazi, Dischord bands rarely last long enough to record more than an album or two, and inevitably its members spin off to form at least two or three new bands afterward. Fitting firmly in that lineage, Faraquet existed from 1997 to 2001, rising up out of another short-lived Dischord band, Smart Went Crazy, and spawning yet another, Medications. But its one full-length, 2000′s The View From This Tower, has become something of a cult classic among those of us who like their D.C. postpunk with a healthy dose of jazzy prog. So it was exciting to hear the news in 2007 that the band would be briefly re-forming to play a few shows and release a compilation of its nonalbum material, Anthology 97-98. But after a few shows in Brazil, of all places, a year passed without the band’s promised hometown show ever happening, and we were starting to give up hope of ever seeing Faraquet live, until it announced a show at the Black Cat last Thursday.

As if to reinforce our point about D.C. bands constantly splintering into other ones, the act playing onstage when we arrived was Statehood, whose rhythm section we immediately recognized as one half of Faraquet’s old contemporaries the Dismemberment Plan. Bassist Eric Axelson and drummer Joe Easley are still as tight a unit as ever, and their new band sounds promising enough. But as a whole, Statehood didn’t quite click with us, possibly because it sounded a bit too much like the Plan, without some essential ingredient that made that band’s chemistry work so well.

Instead of hosting the show in their main room upstairs, the Black Cat booked Faraquet in its smaller ground-floor space, the Red Room, which easily sold out on Thursday. While we understand that Faraquet was a relatively obscure band, and even a one-off reunion might not have sold out the bigger room, we were still annoyed at being packed into the inferior Red Room with a crowd that would’ve fit more comfortably upstairs.

Still, it’s hard to complain about the show’s setting, since it was pretty much perfect once Faraquet took over. Bassist Jeff Boswell slowly made his way onto the stage on a pair of crutches, but stood confidently and never missed a beat during the set. The band ran through songs it scarcely played in public for seven years with almost mechanical precision, and the audience gave off an infectious energy–particularly a manically dancing drunk girl who kept saying things like, “This is the jam right here,” to us during good parts. As singer/guitarist Devin Ocampo said in one of his brief asides between songs, “We were never known for our stage banter,” and his vocals sometimes only take up short sections of otherwise instrumental pieces, so the power trio’s intricate rhythms and riffs, full of unusual time signatures and snaky guitar leads, took center stage as the hooks for fans to anticipate.

Though Faraquet only played for under an hour, a band whose entire recorded output consists of only 18 songs can be considered generous for practicing 13 of them for just one show. Opening with a couple of less-known Anthology cuts before launching into the bulk of The View From This Tower, the set peaked with a furious rendition of “Study in Complacency,” arguably the band’s only chorus worthy of a fist-pumping sing-along. For the encore, Ocampo jumped behind the drums, with drummer Chad Molter switching to a piccolo bass for his one vocal turn, View‘s thunderous title track.

After the show, the Black Cat was crawling with old Faraquet associates, and it was heartening to see Dischord honcho Ian Mackaye carry Boswell’s crutches offstage for him, or to spot Smart Went Crazy’s Chad Clark hanging out and looking healthy, just a few months after undergoing serious heart surgery. Though Faraquet’s music was the emphasis of the evening, small moments like those were reminders that, even as the band names change and the scene stays in a constant state of transition, the Dischord community is full of enduring friendships.

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