Eric Axelson, 40, played in The Dismemberment Plan, Statehood: I think it was Ryan Kidwell [of Baltimore electronica/hip-hop act Cex] and a couple of his friends that came down from Baltimore—people would come to Plan shows and make it their own.
Arbury: One was in a 9-foot-tall Pikachu outfit, and one was in a 9-foot-tall box with a hole for his face. There was a sign on it that said, “Box of Pubes.” I don’t know what seized them, but it had been part of a Conan O’Brien sketch the week before.
Every year since 2003, beginning with what was meant to be The Dismemberment Plan’s final U.S. show, one Fort Reno show each summer has been designated “Night of 1000 Cakes”
Tina Plottel, 39, played in Claudine, Torches: Jason Hutto, who was in The Aquarium, he was playing the show that was supposed to be the last Dismemberment Plan show. Jason and I were in his truck, and I said, “You’re playing Fort Reno with The Plan on your 30th birthday...we should do something.” He said, “I would love it if everyone at Fort Reno could have a piece of cake.” So, I sent an email to a bunch of people we knew with the subject line, “Night of 1000 Cakes.”
Miller: It started pouring rain for over an hour, really heavy rain, but we didn’t want to miss it. There were a good number of people that stuck around.
Plottel: Bob Massey [of Telegraph Melts, The Out Circuit, The Gena Rowlands Band] was still living here, and he and I had this ginormous box of cupcakes. We were giving them out saying, “It’s Jason Hutto’s birthday, have a cupcake.” We gave a cupcake to this one girl, and five minutes later she came back and said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but are there drugs in these cupcakes?” We burst out laughing, “No, there are no drugs in these cupcakes.”
Axelson: We got off maybe eight songs and fucked up some gear. The Aquarium was playing at that show, and there was a massive crowd with lots of umbrellas. There was lightning, and it was not a safe thing for us to be doing.
In 2010, founder and continual supporter of Fort Reno Father George Dennis died at a retirement home for Jesuits in San Francisco.
Henry Rollins, 50, played in Black Flag, Rollins Band: I believe I have been four times total. Three were Evens shows and one Partyline show....To my knowledge, I don’t know of any gatherings like this. I think it’s a great idea. Free shows where you can walk around, the kids can play, it’s a cool scene.
Patrick Kigongo, 29, plays with Ra Ra Rasputin: Last summer when The Evens played, Henry Rollins was there. When I was 14, I was at JFK Airport with my parents and I saw him with his black suit bag and I was absolutely terrified of him. I had only known him as the police officer in The Chase with Charlie Sheen—that was before my friend gave me a copy of [Black Flag’s] Damaged. Fast-forward 14 years later, I finally got to say, “Hey, I met you at the airport; what’s up man, I love your work.”
Leo: There are tons of places in New York where people try to do similar things that are more community-focused and feature local bands. I think one of the big differences is that everything around here, in order to have it happen, it has to be sponsored out the wazoo. It’s so hard to do anything Fort Reno is trying to do without a giant Budweiser sponsorship.
Mike Kanin, 34, booked Fort Reno in the late ’90s, played in The Better Automatic, The No-Gos, Trooper, Black Eyes: The first time that I spent time with the woman who’s now my wife, we walked from a house I was living at in Tenleytown to Fort Reno. I don’t know why we were there, but we ended up sitting on the stage. I think it played a subconscious role in our relationship.
Amanda MacKaye: I do ask people to tell me the ages of their band members when they submit, and I do have a particular interest in getting people under the age of 18 on stage. They don’t have that many opportunities, and they don’t have the same information that I did when I was a kid. They don’t know they can have shows in their houses. I feel like if these kids got a band together, they should get a chance to play.
Ray Brown, 13, plays in The Black Sparks: Before Fort Reno [in 2010], we were just advertised as a kid band...like it was a family-friendly kid thing. Here we were treated as a real band. We weren’t a gimmick.
Pat Walsh, 25, books shows for Positive Force: In 2009, I went for the first time. That was like a turning point of me getting into D.C. and feeling like D.C. was home....I love that it’s families and high-schoolers and 20-something hipsters all hanging out together eating salads from Whole Foods.
Avery: When I think of the ’80s, it was like a teenage wasteland. That’s my memory of it. When I think of it now, I think of, like, shining happy people.
Ian MacKaye: In many ways, you might say it’s defanged. It’s less snaggly, which I think is fine. What’s revolutionary is it’s a point of gathering and it doesn’t make a difference who’s playing. By and large, people just come out for music. That kind of gathering is sorely needed.
Cohen: Over the course of, well, for me it was 15- or 20-year span, I just don’t remember it changing. Like, wow, there’s that little stage and that field, and there’s a tower. The rest of D.C. changed very radically. A lot of the landmarks of my youth are gone. The city became a lot more gentrified and lost a lot of its rougher charms, but Fort Reno felt eternal—not because of its grandeur, but because it was a nice hang.