Concert Review

Setting Chad Kroeger's Hair On Fire: An Evening with Fucked Up

Toronto punk rock outfit Fucked Up graced the stage Tuesday night at downtown Phoenix art gallery PHiX, bringing with them their subdued, docile tones and serene, lucid vocals. Good one, right? Yeah, I had you going -- admit it. Fucked Up absolutely slayed the crowd on Tuesday, a respectable sized crowd for it being a Tuesday night. Who knows if they were there to see the band or if they were there to get sweaty and run into each other. Either way, happiness and joy were had, good music was played, and a legacy was cemented.

Damian Abraham, also known as Father Damian and Pink Eyes, is an extremely affable and charismatic performer. He manages to make Fox News look cool, he splits open his forehead and even gives hugs to his rowdy fans. He is the centerpiece (or centrepiece, since they are from Toronto) of Fucked Up, carrying the weight of the band on his hairy, sweaty shoulders. Right from the opening riffs of "Son the Father," on into the last song of the night, Abraham was the spitting image of what a punk singer should be, especially if that singer happens to be pushing 300 pounds, sporting a noticeable forehead scar and is expecting a child soon. Abraham rewrites the book on what a punk attitude and aesthetic should be, and the world is lucky to have him around. He came on the stage in a red striped polo shirt, and it took all of one song for that badboy to come right off, much to the delight of the crowd and relative comfort of the band. There he was, shirtless and wrapping the microphone cord around his husky frame, often sharing the mic with the crowd so they can join along and sing.

Abraham had a witty banter going with the crowd throughout most of the night. It's a testament to how truly genuine and unique the guy really is. He was gracious to be in Phoenix on a Tuesday night, thanking those dedicated fans for coming out. He was humble in announcing that his band just got word of a Juno nomination this morning, explaining the Canadian music award to be like a Grammy, just "a thousand times less cooler" and "won in every category by Nickelback." He then vowed, if Fucked Up wins the award for Best Alternative Album of the Year, to "light [Nickelback lead singer and aficionado of all things douche] Chad Kroeger's hair on fire." I certainly hope he holds true to his word, and something tells me he just might.

Fucked Up's set was everything a punk rock, hardcore, alternative or whatever music you want to deem it set should have been. Loud, brash songs filled with Damian Abraham's scruffy, gurgling vocals were met with heaps of slam dancing and moshing. I'd venture to guess that the stage at PHiX is a little over a foot high, but that didn't stop those willing fans from stage diving the entire night. I don't blame them. If I wasn't such a wuss, I would have been right there with them, diving into the sweaty mass of humanity, losing my shit to Fucked Up's absolutely divine punk rock music. There were plenty of smiles, gallons of sweat and tons of bruises, but everyone had a blast Tuesday night -- Fucked Up included. Near the end of the set, Abraham explained to the fans that he doesn't eat before a gig, for fear of throwing up, and not in a cool way "like G.G Allin did." He then told the crowd he was going to hit up Sonic after the show, a restaurant that they don't have in Canada. "We don't have a place where they will walk up to your car and give you your food," Abraham explained. "Sure, we have subsidized health care, but no Sonic."

It was all a part of Abraham's charm and persona, both of which I could not get enough of. Everyone in the crowd knows they witnessed a slice of punk greatness, and while some may be too dizzy or exhausted to fully recognize it, others will be more than happy to recount the night that they were graced with the presence of Damian Abraham -- one of the greatest live performers currently making music.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night:
Fucked Up at PHiX Gallery.

Better Than: Any show I've seen in the last 6 months.

Personal Bias: I think Damian Abraham is a genius and impossible to hate.

Random Detail: Abraham is married and about to be a dad, which may sound shocking after watching him perform. I personally think he will be an outstanding father.

By The Way: Abraham had no trouble letting some fans surround him like moths to a porch light near the end of the set, often letting them sing for him.

Further Listening: "Crooked Head" at the band's myspace.

One More Thing: Not many lead singers will pick up a random fan, carry him around the venue on their shoulder, and end up with him back on stage, giving him hugs while hushing him like a small child. Damian Abraham, however, is more than happy to oblige.

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Michael Lopez