LIVE REVIEW: Fucked Up Deliver Sweaty Man Hugs For All

Fucked Up, Rifflandia Festival, September 14, Victoria, BCRifflandia has one of the coolest names for a music festival. It seemed in past years when it was smaller that it was more about the “riff” than it is in its current iteration, where hip-hop, Americana, indie rock and, well, Fucked Up intermingle. For instance, we preceded our attendance at this show by seeing the Flaming Lips do their damnedest to bore a football field of people who were really excited about being at a music festival on a beautiful late summer night. Talk about a missed opportunity. This was the best part of the show and it took place in the first minute. Yay, giant balloons!

That show ended at 9 pm promptly when the band finally stopped flogging “Do You Realize” and departed. We needed a beer and since our next stop, Soprano’s, was a place we were sure wasn’t going to have anything worth drinking we beelined it to Veneto Lounge, where a pint of Pike Double Trouble set us right. Suitably primed we ambled down the street to Soprano’s where we promptly ran smack into Fucked Up front man Pink Eyes getting his punk rock on to BC’s White Lung. Can we just say that the dude is a mensch? Friendly as hell and easy with the conversation. We shared tales of Poison Idea and other old-dude talk until he had to go backstage to get away from me get warmed up for the show.

Indian Handcrafts from Toronto were Fucked Up’s direct support and the duo filled Soprano’s with a forceful roar that was as thunderous as it was groovy. Both guitarist Daniel Brandon Allen and drummer Brandyn James Aikins did vocals (sing? not really) and they just exploded through a set heavily drawn from their latest album for Sargent House Records, Civil Disobedience For Losers. Highlight for us was the seriously catchy and equally brutish “Bruce Lee.” Imagine if all those classic Am Rep bands listened to a little more P-Funk, this is what it would have sounded like.

We feel bad for the members of Fucked Up who weren’t the lead singer or wearing a dress on this night. Because, near as we could tell, those guys did not garner a whole lot of attention from the crowd. Three guitarists and a drummer who was obscured by the stage full of musicians in front of him provided the, we sure, unintentional backdrop for a maniacal singer and a female bass player who played like a punk rocker, but was definitely dressed for something more like a cocktail party. The juxtaposition between the beauty and the beast became all the more apparent, when after a song or two Pink Eyes removed his shirt to reveal he had on a sweater underneath.

Sonically there was no separation between the entities that make up the group. Fucked Up are relentless. North Americans mostly stopped making music that’s anywhere close to this about two decades ago. In the imaginary twilight where Poison Idea began to fade and the Pixies began their rise, there lies Fucked Up’s musical origins. There’s the wall-of-sound bombast of early ’70s Who in there, too, but there is denseness to the sound that feels like it’s unstoppable.

And amidst the maelstrom is a bald, bearded bear who’ll scream his fury into your face one moment and then grab you in sweaty man hug the next. We were partial to the ample assortment of songs from the band’s debut, Hidden World, especially “Baiting the Public” and “David Comes to Life,” but this show was almost less about the songs and more about the assault on the senses. At the end of it all, we realized that we had loved every minute of it, but weren’t sure we could stand any more.