Live at the Capitol Hill Block Party, Day 1: Fucked Up

photos by Brittney Bush Bollay

Hardcore punkers Fucked Up have ridden a steady stream of hype and good fortune since their second album, the universally lauded The Chemistry of the Common Life, winner of the 2009 Polaris Prize. The band’s reputation as a hyper-frenetic destruction machine is well-documented, including two disastrous sets at MTV Live that caused over $2000 in damages and have been described by lead singer Damian Abraham as “fucking out of control terrifying.” Despite this, the band remains one of the more captivating of the North American hardcore scene, and have been joined onstage by such punk luminaries as Keith Morris (Circle Jerks) and Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys). Their new record, David Comes to Life, is a conceptual four-act, 78-minute double LP that has drawn the band’s second nomination for the Polaris Prize in as many years. It’s a dense, chaotic masterpiece of volatile distortion that perfectly matches the band’s unique stage presence. Centered around love and tragedy, David Comes to Life quickly becomes a vaguely incoherent tornado of blistering guitars, alternatively growling and screaming combined with more melodic and ethereal vocals courtesy of bassist Sandy Miranda. The album proves as filthy and rough-around-the-edges as their live show often is. There remains a (not so?) remote possibility of coffee beans being spilled at their live set which opens up the KEXP ‘Bean Room’ stage at CHBP 2011, located at Caffe Vita.

Fucked Up, 30 minutes late for their 5pm set, began with “Let Her Rest,” the opening track to their new album. Immediately noticeable was the stage presence of front-man Damian Abraham, swinging his mic and staring off into some visual point above the audience, in his own world. A delightfully charismatic man with no lack of confidence on stage, he self-assuredly remained the focal point of the entire set, the five-piece band acting more as a backdrop to Abraham eccentricities. He added more than expected to the set, aiding the conceptual factor of the album by acting along the story lyrics . Midway through the first song of their short four-song set, he ripped off his sweater quickly followed by his shirt, dancing and jogging in place, pirouetting, arm in the air, making eye contact and facial expressions at fans, constantly immersing himself in the stories.

If you took a photo of Fucked Up and asked people the question “What kind of music does this band play?” you would most likely get the answer indie music, melodic, possibly some type of catchy guitar-based rock. Yet, Fucked Up successfully merge and blur several genres, transcending above mere punk, hardcore or indie music, producing perhaps a somewhat isolating end result to someone unfamiliar with the hardcore sound and an uncanny staying power that brings these same listeners back. Not coincidentally, the audience remained mostly stationary, bobbing heads and seeming somewhat restrained in the face of the intense energy percolating on-stage.

Their set at the Neumo’s Stage tonight at 9pm will without a doubt be more violent, abrasive, loud, and full of the more characteristically ‘hardcore’ energy that has become the norm at their shows. Ultimately, their seems to be so many ways that Fucked Up could theoretically fuck up in what they are doing – transcending genres that don’t pragmatically seem to fit together; and yet, what Fucked Up is doing works on multiple levels, from the music to the stage presence and, most of all, the exuberance and boyish enthusiasm of what makes their show tremendous – story-telling front-man Damian Abraham.

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One Comment

  1. Chris Estey
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    This is an extremely well written review (covering all the musical and philosophical bases!) about one of my favorite preview shows ever. Perfect reason why KEXP’s presence is so deeply appreciated (writing like this from fans like this about shows like this). Bravo!

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