Friday, June 6, 2014

Fucked Up at the Bowery Ballroom

Pink Eyes, aka Damian Abraham
Fucked Up formed as a hardcore punk band in 2001 in Toronto, Canada, by high-school friends who were inspired by first- and second-wave hardcore bands. Fucked Up recorded dozens of releases, and despite having a name that cannot be printed in the New York Times and other media, won Canada's 2009 Polaris Music Prize for the band's second album The Chemistry of Common Life. The moniker is not the only controversy associated with the band, however. Several critics denounced the band's cryptic lyrics as flirting with fascist ideology. During concert appearances on MTV, the musicians and their fans tore apart a studio in 2007 and, given a second chance, did it again in 2008. Fucked Up lost a lawsuit against Rolling Stone and Camel in 2008 regarding an advertisement that implied that the band was promoting the tobacco product. A chaotic performance on a pedestrian bridge at South by Southwest in 2008 resulted in police action -- some called it a riot. The band has survived it all, and Fucked Up's present lineup consists of Pink Eyes (Damian Abraham, also known as Mr. Damian, vocals) 10,000 Marbles (Mike Haliechuk, lead guitar), Concentration Camp (Josh Zucker, rhythm guitar), Young Governor (Ben Cook, also known as Bad Kid or Lil' Bitey,  rhythm guitar), Mustard Gas (Sandy Miranda, bass) and Mr. Jo (Jonah Falco, also credited as G. Beat or J. Falco, drums). Fucked Up's fourth album, Glass Boys, was released on June 3, 2014.

While Fucked Up has experimented often in the recording studio, multi-layering guitar tracks to absurd excess, recording a 17-minute song that included five minutes of whistling, incorporating traditional instruments (flute) and female backing vocals, and recording a "rock opera" set in Margaret Thatcher's Great Britain. Nevertheless, tonight's performance at the Bowery Ballroom showed that the band is first and foremost an outstanding hardcore punk band. Abraham was a commanding and burly front man -- towering, bald, bearded, hairy, sweaty and half naked for most of the show (watch out below when he dives into the audience!). He aggressively growled the lyrics while constantly moving and grooving across the stage to the frantic music, frequently sharing the microphone with fans at the edge of the stage. The band's triple-thick wash of guitars was an incendiary and sometimes discordant wall-of-sound assault, with Haliechuk ripping leads that were sometimes more psychedelic than punk. The songs on the albums touch on political commentary, rants about organized religion, rebirth, and Tibetan mysticism, but in concert, who knew? The gruff, abrasive roar of the gravel-throated vocals, the massive guitar attack, the pummeling, tribal percussion and the "tension and release" energy were a thick, raw, messy and jarring locomotive. Forget the odd flourishes on the band's recordings; onstage, Fucked Up was straight forward hardcore punk at its nadir.

Fucked Up does not seem to have its own website. Visit Fucked Up through its record company website, www.matadorrecords.com/fucked_up, or the band's FaceBook page.