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Fucked Up: This is Hardcore

Updated: Mar 30, 2019

Loch Ness, Krakow, 30/11/09

For a minute tonight, I thought I had entered a zoo. A zoo with a rampant and bloodthirsty (though rotund) wild animal set free from its cage and tormenting those who sought to cage it. Lead singer, Damian Abraham (aka Father Damian, aka Pink Eyes) was, from the first song, straining like a bulldog on a leash to get beyond the fencing separating himself from the bemused audience as his band thrashed out numbers from their new album ‘Chemistry of Common Life’; By the second song, he’d leaped over it, and was prowling around the audience seeking hapless victims. Hapless, though in most cases, willing. Here is an incomplete log of Abraham’s antics:

• Bashing the microphone into his skull. • Giving unsuspecting bespectacled teenagers piggyback rides. • Screaming at the bar, then mounting it to use it as a make-shift stage • Wrapping the mic cord around his neck like a leash, or around his face like a mummy. • Just laying face down on the ground while everyone stands around confused. • Hugs galore. • Sneaking up on some guy who’s intently watching the rest of the band members and scaring him. • Sneaking up behind some girl who’s talking to her friends and scaring her. • Wearing a plastic cup like a unicorn horn. • Removing his t-shirt to expose his sweaty, frankly alarming torso, whilst always looking more than capable of removing his baggy boxer’s shorts to complete the effect

• Going up to random members of the audience (including me) yelling at them and pinching their faces.

One cannot really review a gig such as this in the traditional way, as it really was a kind of circus performance; so much so that the rest of the band almost become peripheral as all eyes were on the marauding madman and everyone was wondering just what the hell he was going to do next. But here goes anyway. Fucked Up hail from Toronto, Canada, and they have been going for about eight years now. Their style of music might be described as hardcore punk, but it, like their live performances, defy convention or categorization. They would no doubt be compared to NOFX, Black Flag or Andrew WK, which is fair enough, but their skilful instrumentation and musicianship sets them apart from other bands in this genre, so much so that some aficionados have accused them of trying to sound too popular. Harsh, at least to my still-ringing ears. If pop sounded like this, everyone would be deaf by now.

Damian Abraham's glass-gargling roar remains the primary source of Fucked Up's visceral energy, despite the occasional interruption of a female vocal; the often dense, pealing and textured wall of guitars that emanate from the stage amply play accomplice to the crowd-stalking antics of the robust front-man. How to break down their appeal to the casual onlooker or the regular rock fan? Well; imagine a band like, say the Pixies at their noisiest and most raucous – imagine Black Francis as a tad larger, balder, uglier, more menacing and more likely to bite the head off a bat onstage; and there you have Fucked Up. Without the Spanish songs about incest and slicing up eyeballs of course. As Abraham launched himself at the bar, a plastic beer glass on each side of his head, and started spitting out the lyrics to ‘No Epiphany’ from their latest album, I had to dodge out of his way, grabbing my beer lest it be wiped out by his size ten Converse.

“Are you guys having FUN?” he leered down from atop my erstwhile beer’s position. The crowd yelled back in affirmation. “Are you guys called Krakatonians?” he quipped, adding, “cos in Canada we’re known as Torontonians” – before proceeding headfirst into a Black Flag cover and then running out the front door to scream at the full moon for a few moments; the length of his mic lead only matched by the length of his list of crowd-pleasing antics. After about ninety minutes of utterly unpredictable mayhem, during which it seemed Old Pink Eyes had interacted in some way with every single member of the audience, the band trooped off to massive applause from the modest crowd; most of whom would have gone away convinced that they had just witnessed a band perform like no band they have ever seen, or are likely to see again. Fucked Up: not a band that you’d like to take home to meet your mum, or even a band you’re likely to get past the first date with. But as a one-night stand, they certainly know how to show you a good time.

All photos: credit to Jamie Howard.


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