Fucked Up at The Firebird, 7/1/11
By all accounts, it was the best Fucked Up show in St. Louis in years. The crowd was into it, the band was into it - it was Canada Day, after all - and the Toronto six-piece gave as severe an ass-whooping as mere mortals can muster. The band's latest, a punk opera called David Comes to Life, might seem like a tough thing to translate live. But once the show starts, it's all about the party, which is good because you'd go deaf and dumb trying to follow Fucked Up's arrangements.
There were a decent number of people for Bug Chaser, though more than a few complained they'd missed the band's early slot - we've been conditioned to the 8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. show model, but this one was early because Fucked Up wanted to hit the City Museum before skipping town.
Despite the fact that Bug Chaser lost its bass player a few weeks ago and on Friday lead singer Pat Grosch was doing his diligence at a family function, the band sounded tight, running back and forth between taut, sideways rock and ramshackle punk. Matty Coonfield of Glass Teeth and Tone Rodent filled in on bass and back up vocals while Jake Jones took lead. For a band accustomed to basement shows at DIY-and-then-some venues, they sounded stellar in a professional setting.
Ever low-key, JEFF the Brotherhood ambled into the building about fifteen minutes into Bug Chaser's set, looking fresh off the 258 miles between here and Nashville. The real-life brothers started off strong with aptly titled "Shredder." The crowd was ready to rage, but the Brotherhood seemed to lose steam halfway through the set. Maybe it was the Weezer-ish material, maybe they were too stoned to pull out all the stops, maybe they were being courteous and wanted the audience to save their energy for the Main Event. As hale as they sounded, something was off. But anything, anything would have been better than ending with "The Tropics." It's a slow song to begin with, but it left an "ehhh" imprint that was kind of a major drag, because they're a damn good band.
Fucked Up took the stage a little after 10, and lead singer Damian Abraham thanked the assemblage right off the bat, something he'd continue to do the rest of the night. "Thank you so much. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you spending your Canada Day with us." A good natured "U-S-A, U-S-A" chant followed before Abraham asked if anyone had heard of a fellow Canuck named "Justin Motherfucking Bieber." In between thanking people, cracking jokes, and collecting red water cups to smash onto his sweaty bald dome, Abraham was bucking around, running into the crowd, chucking people around the head and distributing high fives. He dedicated one song to Aaron, who always puts them up when they're in St. Louis, and "I Hate Summer" to his "slightly overweight" brethren. At one point, he got ahold of a pale pink present bow, the kind you'd find in excess at a baby shower, and put it on his head. Who the hell had that shoved in the pocket of his black drainpipes? More importantly, why?!
Halfway through the set, Abraham left the stage and headed into the green room, returning seconds later with half a case of bottled water. He pulled out bottles and threw them into the writhing mass, before upending the case and sprinkling the remaining bottles on the crowd. For a second, showmanship took a backseat to making sure his fans didn't fucking die in front of him. And yes, that's probably part of the show every time, but the look on his face was touching and fatherly, as if saying, If you jokers insist on enjoying my music this much, then by Satan I'll make sure you do it proper-like.
If you didn't know every lyric by heart, you weren't going to learn them at the Firebird. Except for the occasional scrowl (screech+howl) or punk yell, Damien's vocals were all but inaudible over the concrete wall of sound. Not that there's anything wrong with that; the band kept the energy relentless. But the majority screamed along lyric for lyric, whenever Abraham shoved a mic in someone's face they joyously screamed the words for him. The newer stuff like the catchy "A Little Death" wasn't met with as much zeal as the more hardcore songs like closers "Police" and "Son the Father." You could tell what was old and what was new by how many people were crowd surfing at any given moment. Still, it was impossible not to have the time of your life, and dammit, we did.
Diana Benanti Setlist, courtesy of this guy's chest.
The Crowd: So. Many. Dudes.
Overheard: "It's so stupid in there man. Place is full of dummies." Disgruntled dude before JEFF the Brotherhood.
Hot Damn: Last summer, this show would have been unbearable. The Firebird had a new air conditioner installed a couple of months ago, and while it didn't save the dudes sweating through their skivvies in the pit, it was possible to enjoy the show without a rank case of swampass.
"Well, she has a serious heroin addiction." One of two mentions of the drug I overheard in a 45 minute span. What is WITH people and heroin these days? Folks are dropping like flies from this shit. Yeah, it's sooo glamorous--you become an insta-junkie, you go broke, royally screw over everyone you love, then you get pneumonia or a paper cut and you fucking die. Heroin is for jerks.