The six-piece Toronto melodi-core institution known as Fucked Up were in town last Friday celebrating the release of their latest magnum opus, Glass Boys (Matador). Fucked Up always bring the noise in their live incarnation, except the one time frontman Damian Abraham had to go to the hospital after smashing a lightbulb on his face during the first song.
On record, Abraham’s one-note bellow is a sometimes liability, but on stage his good-natured fury is a major asset. With his ever-present basketball shorts and bare-chested demeanor, Abraham comes off like the world’s most pissed off teddy bear. The crowd loves him, and when he made his way onto the floor of the sold-out Bowery Ballroom, the people embraced him, literally and figuratively.
There is an undeniable anthemic aspect to Fucked Up’s music, which, despite their epic song lengths and endless bag of riffs, reminds me of Avail shows back in the ‘90s. Everyone from punks to squares to the hardcore faithful would go to those shows, and even a grump like me couldn’t ignore the explosion of energy generated by the subsequent dissolution of the band/audience dynamic. Like any good hardcore show, there is no difference between the two. On the strength of Jonah Falco’s muscular drumming, the chugging guitars and Abraham’s sweat and record-nerd between-song banter, Fucked Up put on a damn good show for a bunch of aging hardcore kids. They closed the set with a particularly spirited run through of fan favorite Police.
Local punk quartet In School opened the show with a clutch of DC hardcore-indebted stompers like Conquest and Apocryphal Scum from their Praxis Of Hate 7-inch. Ending with a cool take on what’s become a virtual punk standard, the Urinals’ I’m A Bug, they did a fine job of transferring their basement/loft-dwelling hardcore punk to a bigger venue like Bowery.
The much-hyped Big Ups occupied the middle spot, and while showing some promising moves, they failed to fully deliver the goods. Spazzy singer Joe Galaragga has a good punk scream and plenty of nervous energy, but his band drops the ball at times. Their second song was a weak Jesus Lizard imitation by a freshly-showered high school band. Big Ups is better when they are operating from a Dischord Records template, echoing latter-day post-hardcore heroes like At The Drive In. Galaragga’s urgent, motormouthed delivery on a track like Goes Black is dampened somewhat by the guitarist’s got-a-Sam-Ash-gift-certificate-for-Christmas guitar tone. Big Ups shows promise, but one gets the feeling they need a year or so of serious roadwork before they can truly provide the catharsis their audience craves.