In the list of great band names Fucked Up has to be up there with Selfish Cunt for its fabulous career wrecking potential. Let’s face it you’re never going to get on The One Show with a name like that are you eh? And thank the lord for that too. It’s not stopped Canada’s finest purveyors of punk rock from chalking up a decade of blood, sweat and tear soaked gigs though and there was no reason to suspect that tonight would be any different.
First up though, from considerably closer to home than Canada, Them Wolves, who lurch gloriously from full on Sabbs riffage to slower grinding, skull crushing noise...then back again...repeat until eyeballs explode and ears tear themselves from heads to seek sanctuary somewhere quieter...like the inside of a jumbo jet engine for instance.
Twin vocalists Greg and Stuart (they’re not really twins...they just sing together...you got that? Oh good...) stand side on to the audience, each one trying to lacerate their throat before the other, whilst the band’s drummer literally destroys bits of kit, prompting a momentary ‘cabaret’ break in the glorious mayhem. Not just band, more a weapon of mass destruction.
It’s fair to say that the Fair Ohs (well their lead singer at least) were in a bit of a confrontational mood, baiting the audience from the beginning with the promise that the set would suck and going on to pick on hecklers, old mates (“Fuck off you fat bastard”) and, finally all of us with a parting shot of “Fuck you all”. Personally I don’t give a monkey’s ass if bands have attitude – although a lot of it tonight was more tongue in cheek than a full on assault – just as long as they can take any flak they might get back (surprisingly most of the crowd failed to rise to the challenge) and, more importantly, perform their butts off.
Anyone who witnessed the earlier mentioned Selfish Cunt shows (now the stuff of legend) will know that, as that nice butter salesman Mr Rotten informed us, “anger is an energy”. (For anyone who didn’t see ‘the Cunt’ live, in the early days at least the act involved lead singer Martin Tomlinson leaping from the stage and smashing everyone’s pints out of their hands. The last time I saw them he’d progressed to lobbing glass bottles at people...not for everyone I’ll grant you but, hell, no chance of drifting off and texting your mates at one of these gigs eh...I believe they ended up being banned from pretty much every venue on earth for a while).
Anyway, The Fair Ohs did perform their butts off delivering a kind of metal math rock with a surf twang and the odd hint of Asian flavour Yes, really (see Everything Is Dancing for evidence).
If Vampire Weekend and popped into a curry house in California...on route to a hardcore gig...bear with me here...this is probably what it would sound like.
Finally, fronted by the man mountain that is Damian ‘Pink Eyes’ Abraham, it was time to get well and truly Fucked Up. Tonight’s audience was split neatly into a small but particularly energetic pit of moshers (who seemed to know every word of every song) and the larger majority who just stood and watched the carnage unfurl. He might be a bit of a big lad but Damian’s got enough energy to smash particles and for well over an hour he’s seldom still, either jumping all over the stage or taking the show to the masses, trailing several feet of thick black mic lead behind him...or wrapping it tightly round his face at one point. It’s a look I suppose. Vocally it’s pure hardcore, musically there’s a lot more going on and if you’re able to separate these elements out from each other you could almost be watching two different bands with more of an experimental rock feel to some of the tunes. It’s not the kind of gig for muso beard stroking though, for the pit people it’s clearly better than sex...a chance to get as up close and personal with their hero as Mrs Pink Eyes gets. Damian’s clearly happy to share the moment with each and every one of them too, proffering his mic for them to scream out his words in a primal howl of pleasure and pain and dragging the fallen back to their feet before they get squished. Best tracks of the set? The Who-tastic (shades of Won’t Get Fooled Again) Running On Nothing was incendiary and the most accessible song of the set, The Other Shoe (positively poppy compared to some of their stuff) prompted some particularly enthusiastic sing alongs to its brutally nihilistic “dying on the inside” chorus. After the show (and once the Red Cross had been in to collect the casualties, sweep up limbs etc) Damian carried on mixing and chatting with fans, posing for photos, licking faces...as accessible and down to earth as anyone you’re likely to meet.
For the true believers a Fucked Up gig’s practically a religious experience, a sweat anointed baptism of bruised limbs and burning muscles. For everyone else it’s still one of the most energy charged performances you’re ever going to catch. Miss ‘em whilst they’re still around and you’ve really fucked up...