September 24, 2011
I should get this out of the way: Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life is my favorite album of the year so far, and “Queen of Hearts” my favorite song. I even used the track to propose to my now-fiancée (it helps that “Veronica” and “Nadia” sound similar). I have seen the band three times in the past year, and have more than one photo where I’m posing with front man Damien Abraham, who’s, of course, not wearing a shirt in either one. So, yeah, I’m probably biased, but: Saturday night’s show at Webster Hall was, in the words of someone walking out of the venue afterwards, “fucking awesome.”
Wavves began the show with their beachy, Blink 182-ish pop punk (Abraham later commented on Nathan Williams being the “Justin Bieber of indie rock,” a surprisingly apt comparison; there were a lot of underage girls scream-singing to “Green Eyes,” not unlike Beliebers crooning “Somebody to Love”), including new songs “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl” and “Bug.” After all that, Fucked Up took the stage.
Well, most of the band took the stage, anyway; Abraham wasn’t up there long enough to really say he “took” anything. Within two minutes, he was in Webster Hall’s tiny photo pit, and a minute after that, over the railing and into the crowd, where he spent most of the show.
A Fucked Up concert is big, sweaty and chaotic, where song lyrics, unless they’re chanting “I hate summer” over and over again, don’t really matter. They’re almost impossible to hear over the band’s three guitarists, all trying to play louder than the one next to them. Abraham might be Fucked Up’s spotlight member, the one who you can’t help but stare at when he’s pouring water on his head and roaming through the crowd, but not only do Mike Haliechuk, Josh Zucker and Ben Cook, along with bassist Sandy Miranda and drummer Jonah Falco, envelop their singer’s scorched-throat vocals, they also keep the show from ever feeling gimmicky. They’re too talented. Unlike Abraham, the tiny-by-comparison band rarely smiles; they’re too intent on pummeling the venue with power chords, larger-than-life riffs and feedback, focused mostly on tracks from David (“The Other Shoe,” “Running on Nothing,” etc.) and 2008’s The Chemistry of Common Life (a fluteless-“Son the Father” and “Twice Born,” included). The sound was almost too big for Webster Hall, whose floors constantly rumbled from the multitude of amps on-stage and the relentless stomping from the crowd. David Comes to Life, is arena-rock disguising itself as hardcore. They’re the stretching the boundaries of the genre, and it’s exhilarating to be there for the process.
Now back to Abraham. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a front man care as much about his fans as the man dubbed as Pink Eyes does, and I’m not saying that to be coy; he interacts more with the audience than with the rest of the band. And while that could be seen as the singer thinking he’s bigger than Fucked Up, well, that’s only true in the most literal sense: he’s actually larger than anyone else in the group. Much larger. Abraham (who, to his credit, knows the limitations of his vocals; you won’t hear him singing along with no musical accompaniment very often, if at all) goes into the crowd, gives people big sweaty hugs (me included), says thank you to the security guards, passes his microphone around to let people unleash a loud screech into it, and crowd surfs (a sight to behold) because he genuinely cares what we think of the band, and he wants us to have fun. Say what you will about him stopping the show because it looks like someone’s hurt in the testosterone-driven mosh pit, about how it’s not “punk” enough, but fuck that; live, Fucked Up cares about two things: playing as loudly, passionately, and proficiently as possible, and making sure everything has one hell of a time. On both accounts, they succeeded this past weekend. (Although, in honesty, the show stopped not because someone in the crowd was injured, but because they couldn’t find their glasses. OK, that’s very not “punk.”
Photo by Chris Gersbeck