Fucked Up at Fitzgerald's, 1/26/14

Fucked Up, Glue, Back to Back, Bastard Cult Fitzgerald's January 26, 2014

In all of the angry, sweaty universe of hardcore punk, there's no other band quite like Toronto's Fucked Up. Don't bother trying to name another group in the genre whose last release was a critically acclaimed rock opera set in industrial England of the 1970s, because there isn't one. Led by hyper-earnest lead screamer Damian Abraham, Fucked Up has made their name not only on the strength of their free-for-all live performances, but on the standout songwriting that makes so many of their hardcore peers seem like dull rehashes of the past.

Whether taken as standard-bearers of 21st Century punk or simply as interesting weirdoes, Fucked Up is a must-see for fans of wild and wooly rock and roll, and on Sunday night they strolled into Fitzgerald's to give Houston a big, sweaty hug.

The crowd that showed up to see them took a little coaxing (and maybe a few beers) to really cut loose in the preferred fashion. They were awfully subdued for local openers Bastard Cult, who unleashed a pounding racket of chainsaw hardcore that was received rather coolly by the arriving audience. Despite the terrifying screams and furious drumming pouring out of the club's PA, the crowd held back initially, prompting singer Jaron Sayers to remind fans what would be expected of them on the evening.

"This is a fucking punk rock show," he said. "Do punk rock shit!"

Perhaps that advice was taken to heart, because when Austin's Glue took the stage next, the "punk rock shit" began in earnest. Almost immediately, a wild pit broke out in the middle of the floor as intrepid stage divers took out entire rows of fans up front. As Glue stomped through its rendition of bruising, early-'80s hardcore, the message was received loud and clear that the dancefloor was now open for slamming.

The action continued for Houston's Back to Back, one of the fastest-rising young hardcore bands in the local scene. Vocalist Chaney Lim had fun lying on top of the fans up front as if they were a chaise lounge as the band blasted out chugging, early hardcore. The mosh pitters were given a wide berth as the shoving and strutting intensified, with one intrepid young lady repeatedly attempting to walk on folks' heads during the melee. If it took Fitzgerald's a bit to warm up, punks were certainly holding back no longer.

Naturally, things got weirder just as soon as Fucked Up turned up. The band is a large one by punk-rock standards, easily filling the stage with guitar stocks and microphone stands, and Lord knows they were a damn sight tighter and more musical than their buds on the bill. Sharpened by years of hard touring, Fucked Up ripped open a fearless set of epic, optimistic hardcore of a kind never perfected by anybody else. For maybe the first time all night, big smiles began to spread throughout the room.

There was still plenty of mayhem, to be sure. Fans weren't shy about putting their boots in the air, diving, surfing and pogoing to tunes from 2011's David Comes to Life. It was a much friendlier mosh than was inspired by the Texas bands, however, with Abraham venturing often into the crowd with his super-long mic cable to dole out sweat-slicked hugs, high fives and photo ops while he sang.

Even the folks standing around in back with their hands in their pockets were not safe from Abraham's gregarious visitations as he rushed through the club with his mic cable wrapped around his face. Despite their indie-rock songwriting sensibilities, the singer makes Fucked Up too energetic and screamy to be anything but punk rock. Whether you're into hardcore or not, when a big, smiling dude with a microphone is screaming in your face, it's tough not to scream (and smile) right back.

Personal Bias: Chronic edge-breaker.

The Crowd: Fearless and curious.

Overheard in the Crowd: "She's not getting in the middle of the Joy Division fight."

Random Notebook Dump: Abraham told an amusing anecdote about watching Bun B perform at FPSF 2011. Bun apparently sent him a tweet after the singer praised the rapper on Twitter: "My anxiety prevented my from ever answering him," Abraham said. "Now I feel like an asshole."


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