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Six Song Demo 1984

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Rites Of Spring

Six Song Demo 1984

12" LP

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Quick Overview

***RITES OF SPRING were among the most important and beloved bands to emerge from the DC underground music scene in the mid-80s. Formed by GUY PICCIOTTO (vocals/guitar), MIKE FELLOWS (bass), BRENDAN CANTY (drums), and EDDIE JANNEY (guitar) in 1984, the quartet released a self-titled LP and a 7 single before disbanding in 1986. They were central to what came to be known as 'Revolution Summer', a period of redefinition and creative burst from the DC scene in 1985. Before that before they even played a show the band recorded a six-song demo tape at Inner Ear with DON ZIENTARA and IAN MACKAYE. After the dissolution of their previous band, INSURRECTION, in 1983, Canty, Picciotto, and Fellows joined with FAITH guitarist Eddie Janney and began writing new songs. Unfortunately, just as they became ready to play out, Fellows announced plans to relocate to Los Angeles, effectively ending the band before it even got started. Before the bassist departed, the group decided to go to Inner Ear to document the handful of finished songs that they had written. At this point, not only had they never played a show, Rites of Spring hadn t even settled on a name (on the tapes, Zientara listed the sessions as Insurrection II). But already, the music marked a musical shift for the DC punk community, consciously breaking away from the macho-clich├ęs that had come to plague hardcore music. The sessions were notable for being the first time that anybody had heard Picciotto sing. At the time, few bands had access to a PA system during practice and the volume of the other instruments often blotted out vocals. Shortly after tracking was completed, Fellows hit the road and the recordings were mixed in his absence, hence the Beatles-inspired Mike Fellows is dead, gag at the end of By Design. Because the band had broken up before ever playing, there was no plan to officially release the recording, so the completed songs were dubbed onto cassette tapes and given out to friends, who passed them along to others. As a result of the tape-trading the recordings were heard far and wide, though each copy suffered a loss of sound-quality. As it turned out, the West Coast didn t agree with Fellows and in July he came back to DC to rejoin the band. Shortly after his return the band performed its first show at Food For Thought opening for Gray Matter. They would perform fewer than 20 shows before they disbanded. These six songs capture Rites of Spring in its earliest stages. Once the band started playing out, the songs gained velocity and intensity (see the 7-minute plus version of End on End that closes their LP), but many of the elements that defined their music frenzied energy, sharp melodies, and introspective lyrics were already very much in place. The release has been mastered from the original tapes and is presented exactly as it was on those cassettes in 1984 complete with the tape collages and assorted audio-graffiti. Members went on to play in HAPPY GO LICKY, FUGAZI, ROYAL TRUX and SILVER JEWS.


During their incredibly short lifespan, Washington D.C. post-hardcore unit Rites of Spring rose up as one of the first emo bands, setting the framework for decades of evolution in punk culture. Lead singer Guy Picciotto and drummer Brendan Canty would join forces with Ian MacKaye to form Fugazi and even further expand the musical boundaries of bands rooted in punk subcultures, but for a handful of months before that, Rites of Spring burnt dazzlingly bright and incredibly fast. The band is said to have only played 15 live shows, total, and their entire studio output before the release of this 1984 demo tape was limited to just one album and one single. The six songs on this demo were cut at the same studio as the rest of their material, Dischord's Inner Ear Studios, before the band even performed in front of an audience. As the demo was cut in the same room as the rest of their discography, there's not much difference in fidelity, but there's definitely a dip in both the urgency and sense of excitement on these demo versions when compared to their more realized album counterparts. Possibly the band was less practiced or less invested in the material in its earliest phases, or maybe the recording session was a rushed one-day affair, but songs like "End on End" and "Hain's Point" feel sloppier, distracted, and generally lacking the fire that defined them on album. Picciotto's vocals remain ferocious and committed, but less confidently so. Even still, he's the star of the show, belting out obtuse personal poetry over shaky drums and slightly metal guitar tones. Some of the songs are still pretty hard to mess up, though. Open-hearted songs like "Remainder" and "Persistent Vision" blend the same foggy jangle of early R.E.M. with the loud-and-fast aesthetic of the shifting D.C. punk scene. These moments are what made Rites of Spring so powerful, and even though the majority of the demos pale in comparison to the spirit and tight presentation of the album that came later, as an artifact of a band essential to the development of emo, it's still more valuable than a lot of what came in its wake.

Additional Information

Artist Rites Of Spring
Track Listing 1 End on End - 4:35 2 Remainder - 2:40 3 Pesistent Vision - 1:52 4 Hain's Point - 2:19 5 All There Is - 3:07 6 Big Design [Take Two] [Take] - 2:55

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