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Live Review and Photos: Fucked Up and OFF!, April 16, 2011, Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA

What the hell would Damian Abraham, the lead singer of the hardcore-but-kind-of-indie band Fucked Up, know about the Los Angeles community? After all, his six-piece (including three guitars) band is from Toronto, which, as far as the L.A. state of mind goes, might as well be in another country. Oh. See! It is in another country. My point exactly.

But midway through Fucked Up’s set on Saturday night at the Echoplex, while a thousands of people a couple hours away were showered upon by LED balloons, Abraham spoke to the heart of, well, everything. “This thing we do, well, it is about records and playing shows. That’s a part of it. But it is really about the friends you keep and the community you build.” Yeah, it was another show under the FYF banner, who help put on shows in the L.A. area from Peter Bjorn and John to Surfer Blood. On this night, it was a punkier affair, but not of the meth-smoking, change-begging variety. It was music about building up, more than tearing down, which these days might be as punk as it gets.

This sense of community could be felt in all aspects of the event. Abraham could be seen picking up gear from bill-sharing punk supergroup OFF! after the set. The band was introduced by a member of hometown mainstays Crystal Antlers. Wavves’ Nathan Williams came on stage mid-set to give Abraham a toke (when asked about this after the show, Williams claimed to have introduced weed to Abraham and that it it weren’t for the weed, and by proxy him, the upcoming concept album, David Comes To Life, might not have been conceived). Members of Darker My Love and Cold Showers roamed the audience. Sure, all are probably fans of Fucked Up or OFF! or both, but the turnout also spoke to ability of the bands and FYF to bring people of all musical backgrounds and tastes together. I mean, I don’t listen to hardcore, but I can appreciate people unloading every bit of energy they have on stage, exuding creativity, and connecting with people. Hardcore shows do this and boil art-rock down to the bare essentials. It may seem primitive, but I mean that in the best possible way. Getting in touch with the primal may be a good thing. Hell, it may be an important thing.

Now, I feel like I’ve covered Fullerton, California’s The Audacity too many times to discuss their set in depth. But, I will say that this band improves with every opening performance they are granted. And that is saying something, as they were pretty damn good to begin with. Their garage rock has enough pop sensibility to draw in the casual listener, but not so much that it loses any of its authenticity. Don’t be surprised when you read an article on Pitchfork, or even One Thirty BPM, drooling all over these guys.

But, the main attractions of the night were OFF! and Fucked Up. OFF! may be a collection of well-established hardcore legends, but it is Keith Morris that holds their success in his hands, because of both his charisma and his experience. He talks in his sets as much as he sings (or yells), but this works because he has pretty damn interesting stories to tell. Underrated is his sense of humor, which came out when he was talking about the idea of his band having a top-40 single, and that if they had one, it would be the next number they were about to play. He concluded by revealing that the song was called “Fuck People.”

Fucked Up is a different brand of hardcore. Sure, Morris and Abraham are cut from the same cloth of on-stage tornados, but Fucked Up throws backing melodies into their songs that balances Abraham’s in-your-face barking into music that has a certain depth to it. Yes, it works on that base, let’s-lose-our-shit-and-run-into-each-other level. But, it is also music you can stand back and listen to. It is well-rounded, something that few would ever attach to the hardcore genre.

This has never been clearer than on the first single from their upcoming album, “The Other Shoe.” The guitar riff is practically pop. Bassist Sandy Miranda’s vocal debut with backing “dying on the inside” hook is downright catchy. But, Abraham doesn’t compromise any of the band’s aesthetic with his vocal, rather he relies on the band to steadily build a song around his intense vocal delivery. Whether this is a glimpse of things to come or an oddity is to be seen, but it is the band’s best song yet and one of the best song’s of the year. On this night, it was the clear set highlight.

And with Fucked Up being as much of a joy to listen to as to watch, downplaying the visual experience would be foolish. Abraham, in all his sweaty, shirtless glory shot his vocals to the audience like a rocket launcher, with the crowd reciprocating the sentiment and giving him his words right back. Fans would be raised from audience into the air to deliver the lyrics to the band, proving to be as much a part of the performance as the band itself. And in the chaos of water-throwing, moshing, screaming and on-stage insanity, nothing ever got out of control. Security let it play out, knowing the audience would keep itself in check. After all, this wasn’t a normal crowd. It was a community. Abraham handed out drinking water to the ecstatic attendees, smiles were seen everywhere, after someone would get hammered to the floor, there would be a hand helping them up. Hell, there were girls in the pit (hot ones, nonetheless). After the show, the bands stayed to greet as many fans as wanted to be greeted. Though Fucked Up and OFF! seemed to know a good amount of attendees, they were certain that many more would leave the show as new friends. That is something you can’t get at Coachella.

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