Here is a video of the Canadian punk rock band Fucked Up playing their encore last night at Le Poisson Rouge in the West Village. I was at the show. It was awesome.
Titus Andronicus opened up, and were great and just so deeply Jersey, in their sweaty, disheveled embracement of loserdom and in their striving from something better. The lead singer and guitarist Patrick Stickles was shorter than he looks in his videos, and has shaved his big beard. But he still carried the Michael Shannon browline and intensity in his face and he was charming, even as he asked that a bucket be brought to the stage because he’d drank an energy drink than was not agreeing with him and he thought he might vomit. He didn’t, thankfully, but he belched loudly into the microphone and then played a new song about having an eating disorder. It was a long song with lots of dramatic changes. Almost an epic, I guess, or, like, a mini rock-opera about having an eating disorder. As strange as this sounds, it was really good. Then he played some great songs from last year’s The Monitor album, like, “A More Perfect Union” and “The Battle of Hampton Roads.” He tries very hard, this talented 26-year-old from my home state, and I don’t mean that to sound like a criticism. He tries hard and he does good. And I really like him a lot. New Jersey sucks, but it’s sort of the best at sucking. And so becomes something beautiful like that. Did you see the movie Win Win that came out last year? You should.
Then Fucked Up came out to the stage, which, as you can see from the video, was in the center of the room. People go crazy for this band. I can see why—I love their records, and seeing them play live explains it even more. They are ferocious and powerful, a tidal wave of sound. But warm and generous and inclusive in the way that always bridges the gap between hippie culture and punk rock culture. Which are never so very far apart anyway. The singer Damon “Pink Eye” Abraham, who is huge and bald and hirsute, took off his shirt after the first song, and let the fanatics near the stage scream out a lot of his lyrics. He also wandered around the room a lot, rocking out and slapping high fives with everyone he could reach.
The show was mostly a start-to-finish performance of the album Fucked Up released last year, David Comes to Life. I don’t much like this trend in concerts, the single album in its entirety show. But I do love this particular album, so I wasn’t too bummed out. The show seemed to flag a bit towards the end of the album. Which is understandable. The instrumentalists are playing so hard and fast (the drummer, Jonah Falco, is a phenomenon of speed and precision—like Dave Grohl with short hair and a button-up shirt) and Abraham is screaming and so passionately. I would have ruptured a vocal cord and crumpled in a heap after three songs. A key to this band is sharpness, the order inside this big caterwauling whirlwind they create. It must be very hard to maintain for an extended amount of time. And even when things got a little sloppier and tired, it was still great fun.
But coming out for an encore, playing a couple of older songs, (“Crusades” came out in 2006), they were back in peak form and rocked everybody’s face off. It was very, very loud. My ears are still ringing today, in fact, in a way that I don’t remember then ringing since seeing My Bloody Valentine and Dinasaur Jr. play in 1991. In a way that says to me, “Maybe you are too old to be seeing such loud punk rock shows. Soon you’ll be dead, after all. Here, have a seat in this rocking chair. Have some lemonade.” I don’t go to rock shows very often anymore. But permanent hearing damage or not, I am very happy I went to this one last night.