Concert review: another look at Fucked Up at Blowout

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Fucked Up, Heavyweight Championship at Metro Times Blowout, at the Loving Touch, May 2

"Thank you for not liking boxing," Damian Abraham cheerfully greeted the crowd as Fucked Up took the stage at the Loving Touch for the final night of 2015's Blowout festival. Abraham seemed pleased his fans passed up watching the Mayweather vs. Pacquioa bout to see the inventive Toronto punk band play a city and a venue they love, and while that widely hyped match turned out to be a major disappointment, Fucked Up delivered all the action you could hope for, with a joyously ferocious set that was smart, tight, and just as musically satisfying as it was breathlessly loud.

Abraham mentioned that his three great life obsessions are "weed, wrestling, and wecords," and in between songs he talked about all three, displaying a scruffy charm and unpretentious intelligence that belies his turn-on-a-dime transformation into a massive, ranting cannonball once his bandmates leapt into action. Part of the beauty of seeing Fucked Up live is discovering that such a ferocious wave of sound comes from a band that, once you get past the sight of their frantic and hirsute frontman, could easily pass for a handful of well-mannered grad students – heck, with her sensible skirt and oversized sweater, bassist Sandy Miranda resembled a third-grade teacher who suddenly found a new life calling challenging the state as she held down the bottom end with drummer Jonah Falco.

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And just as Fucked Up don't look like a standard-issue punk band, they sure don't sound like one – Mike Haliechuk, Josh Zucker, and Ben Cook's layers of guitar lay out a gloriously unrelenting hail of downstroke, but with a subtle intricacy that allows an intelligent interplay to shine though the barrage, and when they stretched out as Abraham barreled into the audience, they suggested a freakish but impressive hardcore reworking of the Feelies, playing extended jams that were minimal but brimming with ideas and energy. Fucked Up are six people who love punk but don’t feel the need to be constrained by its accepted templates, and on a warm Saturday evening they delivered a show that swung from impassioned social and political broadsides to sincere homages to wrestling legend the Sheik and the stagecraft of Boom and the Legion of Doom. When have Mayweather or Pacquioa done half that much for us?

Opening the show was Fake Surfers, featuring Adam and Jake from Growwing Pains, and while they suffered the usual fate of the opening act – there were hardly a dozen people on hand when they kicked off their set, which lasted a mere fifteen minutes – they were lively and entertaining throughout, plowing through a set of sloppy but effective punk readymades with a greasy garage undertow that delivered just the right formula of sneering cool. Besides, Jake's drumming would have improved at least 70% of the hardcore bands I saw in the 1980s. And Lizerrd were the perfect band to take the middle slot; the band's burly variation on math rock was impressive enough, as guitarists Joshua Tafelski and James North carefully beat their songs into submission, but lead singer Anthony Gentile is a genius frontman, a remarkable fusion of Iggy, David Yow, and a less campy Jack Black who can generate big laughs when he isn't tossing himself into the audience and causing casual observers to question his stability. Gentile is that rare performer who can begin his set by declaring, "I LOVE the sound of my own voice," and 30 minutes later have you thinking that he very well ought to love hearing himself do what he does.

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