So Fucked Up

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11 nov 2009, 06:22

Thu 5 Nov – "The Chemistry of Common Life" Live

When I stepped into the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, I gazed up in reverence and awe at the placards and quotes on the white marble walls. This wasn't a dive bar, or some underground basement club. This was an institution; a permanent fixture for all to see. I am not a particularly picky person when it comes to concert venues. Give me a band and some fans to listen with, and for all I care I can be watching a concert in an anachronistic bathroom.

For some reason, I wouldn't consider a dilapidated latrine as an improper venue for a band like Fucked Up. They play a cluttered and abrasive blend of punk rock in which their three guitarists can all be going off on their own tangents amidst guttural growling. Their stage names are immature and offensive (Pink Eyes, Concentration Camp and Mustard Gas, to name a few). And lead singer Pink Eyes has a penchant for stripping to his skivvies midsong.

But on that freezing winter night, I showed up at the exquisite hall that was fit for an intimate Morrissey performance. Perhaps the critical success of the band's 2008 album, The Chemistry Of Common Life, gave them the extra push to be considered for such real estate. ChemCom is the band's opus, combining power and rage with wit and charm. It must have had just the right combination of spunk and spirit, because the band received the Polaris Music Prize (Think Canadian Grammys) for best Album of 2009.

Each track is more powerful than the next in terms of sound and fury, but there are tender moments to be elicited. Instrumental offerings provide moments to recover. Various Biblical references are scattered about, stirring curiosity for anyone who can stomach the music. And the proceeds from the Polaris prize? They're going towards an Indie-Rock all-star version of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" to raise money for charity. This is a surprising amount of heart from a band that has the F-Word in their name.

I missed most of opener-for-operner-for-opener Katie Stelmans' set, which I was interested in hearing based on her contribution to the album (Some very piercing guest vocals). I did manage to catch The Girls At Dawn, an ultra-sparse all girl band in the vein of Vivian Girls (Who, along with Andrew W.K., provided wonderful additional instrumentation for Fucked Up's set). Titus Andronicus, an ambitious young band from New Jersey, immediately preceded the main event with energy unmatched by any opening act I've ever witnessed.

When Fucked Up first took the stage, everything seemed pretty standard. The crowd gave a uniform and expected cheer, totally unprepared for what was about to happen. And as soon as the opening chords of "Son The Father" started playing, there was an unexplainable drug in the air, a burst of intensity that nobody in the crowd could have stopped even if they saw it coming. In unison, just as the drums were about to come in, everyone in the room let out a shriek that shook the foundation of the packed venue. It was a religious experience.

The next hour and a half were some of the loudest and craziest moments I care to remember—storming the stage for some guest vocals, hopping from monitors into the crowd, beating a gong to death, getting kicked in the open eye—and I enjoyed every second. I thought to myself during "Crooked Head" that this was what fans were going crazy about in the 80s when bands like Black Flag played a show. Anyone can phone in a performance or sell an mp3 on iTunes. This was a wake up call that quite literally spat in your face and sold you a limited-print 7" all in one fell swoop. It was the classic punk show for the e-Generation.

What I love about Fucked Up is even though every single person in the audience was having the time of their lives, the band wasn't trying to impress anyone; something tells me that they would play with all their heart, which they did, even if they were simply at a band practice. They enjoyed every second, every beer thrown, every fan supported during a stage dive. After the album ended, I heard for the first time in my life what an actual encore sounds like. The band didn't walk off and prepare to walk right back on as if it was expected. The audience simply would not let them leave without playing an off-the-wall version of "Louie Louie".

I realized at that moment why a bunch of raucous kids playing music for garages and basements left such a mark on our culture then and now. A concert is about the passion of the performers toward their fans as much as their music. I can safely say Fucked Up played the show of their lives that night. Their performance was the concrete that solidified the institution of the relationship between fan and band. And a bond like that is stronger than even the marble walls of the Brooklyn Masonic Temple.


Originally posted on Groovemine.com by Raymond Chalmé

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