02:37 PM on 05/31/12
Paul Shirley's View From the Back column - Fucked UpI had turned from the stage and was aiming for the bar when I noticed a commotion behind me. I swiveled my head. There, two feet to my left and coming on fast, was the sweaty, hairy, shirtless back of a man built like a Gamorrean guard. This man was singing, or screaming, or bellowing, depending on your interpretation.
This man was Damian Abraham, the lead singer of the Canadian hardcore band Fucked Up.
If Abraham had been barreling toward me under different circumstances – if we’d been trapped in an episode of Game Of Thrones, for example – I would have turned for the nearest forested hiding place. Abraham is not a small man and, it’s worth mentioning again, he was screaming and sweating and hairy.
But while he was doing these things, he was also doing something else – something that is important to the story of Fucked Up.
He was smiling.
If you sat your grandmother down and had her listen to a Fucked Up album, she’d last 24 seconds before she stood up and said something along the lines of, “That’s not music, that’s noise.” She’d be right, in her way, because Fucked Up’s music is hard to take in the first time. I don’t know that I would have given Fucked Up a second chance except that people I trust told me to give Fucked Up a second chance. (There are reasons we have tastemakers/music friends.)
The band’s last album, David Comes To Life, was called the best album of 2011 by some. Nonetheless, I would wager that many people found it unlistenable.
But behind the discord lurks an undeniable cheerfulness. And that, I think, is what makes Fucked Up good.
Before my close encounter with Damian Abraham, which came at Kansas City’s surprisingly delightful Middle Of The Map fest, I’d seen Fucked Up only one other time – at another smallish festival: Pop Montreal.
In Montreal, I’d arrived late, which meant that Abraham had disrobed entirely. (Not that it takes him long.) I saw only three songs. One of them was a rendition of "Jingle Bells." I thought that version of "Jingle Bells" was a one-off – a lark meant to be funny because it was hardly Christmastime when the band was playing it.
But in Kansas City, I figured out that "Jingle Bells" was hardly a lark.
I arrived at the tiny Riot Room early, determined that I wouldn’t miss a second. A seed had been planted by those three songs I’d seen in Montreal, and I wanted to find out how it would grow.
I was duly rewarded.
At first, I thought maybe I’d been wrong. The screaming did border on unintelligible. The music was hard to take in.
But then Abraham lurched toward me, and I turned, and I saw him smile. I could tell, in that moment, that he didn’t mind that the Riot Room only holds 300 people, or that he was in a sleepy Midwestern town at 12:30 a.m., or that most of those in attendance hadn’t known his band before it took the stage. He was happy to careen about, onstage and off, inside the venue and out, far from me and near.
Happy, because that’s what Fucked Up is, in its way. More glee than gore, more "Jingle Bells" than "Hells Bells."
Your grandmother would hate Fucked Up’s music, but she’d love Fucked Up’s show. As soon as she saw the glee on Damian Abraham’s face, she’d be unable to resist.
And therein, the genius of Fucked Up:
Music your grandmother would hate, produced by people your grandmother would love.
04:41 PM on 05/31/12
Pushin' th' little daisies
I've only seen Fucked Up once, at a Soundwave concert. Missed them opening for Foo Fighters in Adelaide because I couldn't get off work early enough. Great live show, though if you're not in the mood to mosh you probably won't see much of Pink Eyes. He was on the stage precisely long enough to smash a beer can on his head. There were only about 30 people moshing but he spent the whole time with them, engaged, loving it.
09:36 PM on 05/31/12
There's a melody in everything
Would've loved to see a longer piece. Fucked up is such an interesting band and this Shirley fellow writes well, I feel like this coulda been a great read if it had a bit more to it.
05:14 PM on 06/01/12
Well done Paul! Excellent write up. I love the deduction you made at the end. So powerful and true.