TVD Live: Fucked Up at Beachland Ballroom, 7/9

KENDON A. LUSCHER FOR TVDI was prepared to be disappointed. I watched videos of other Fucked Up shows, and they seemed kinetic with shirtless front man Damian Abraham screaming into a moshing, ballistic crowd. Abraham came out with his shirt on and the crowd had been listless at best through two opening acts. Maybe a subdued audience was all we were going to get on a random July Wednesday night.

Abraham came out swinging his microphone in wide arcs. I waited for the crowd to explode as the band played “Paper the House” from their excellent new album, Glass Boys, but they didn’t. His shirt even came off halfway through the song, revealing his everyman’s belly and intricate chest tattoo. Some fans bobbed and swayed by the stage. The fans in the back stood still. This was not what I expected.

Then all hell broke loose on the second song.

Abraham held the microphone into the crowd, moving it expertly from person to person with each word before moving it back to his own mouth and attacking the song. The front of the stage turned into a pit with people jumping up onto the stage and into the crowd in a flashing instance.

The crowd became a spectrum of involvement. The pit pushed against the stage and ebbed back towards the rest of the crowd, violently crashing into each other while somehow maintaining enough respect not to crash into the rest of the crowd who gave a safe buffer between themselves in the pit. Just outside the mosh pit, a strange crowd of glasses-clad indie hipsters and middle-aged adults and, inexplicably, one lady in an evening dress and high heels were swaying and dancing in place. In the back, a bunch of no-fun nerds stood still and watched the show unaffected.

Four songs into the set, Abraham jumped off the stage and into the pit. The moshers held the microphone cord for him, feeding it along as Abraham walked through the crowd, hugging and kissing fans while still singing, screaming into the mic. He stood on a table and balanced a beer can on his head mid-song while the crowd cheered.

His antics continued throughout the night, working the crowd with pro-Cleveland sentiments. Smashing a plastic cup on his forehead and keeping it there for the last four songs of his set. Leading the crowd in a sing-along of “The Other Shoe” where the crowd chanted the refrain of “Dying on the inside!” Having his drummer, Jonah Falco, list Cleveland-based hardcore bands to the cheers and disdain of the crowd, depending on the band—Die Hard got the biggest cheers. Hitting himself on his face. Wrapping the microphone cord around his neck.

This was a fraction of what he did to pull the crowd into the show.

Abraham had all the moves of a great front man, and that would not mean anything if the backing band wasn’t excellent. I feel bad putting them this low in the review, I do. They played through a set that consisted mostly of songs off their last two albums, Glass Boys and David Comes to Life, with expert precision.

The rest of the band was the glue that held together what could have been a chaotic show. They knew exactly when to give Abraham time to do his thing. They knew when to chug forward into songs. Mostly, they knew how to play.

It is a disservice to Fucked Up to call them a hardcore punk band, and not because there is any shame in the definition of being hardcore. It is a disservice because of the connotation that it brings with it—a connation of noisy, messy instruments and mindless screaming. Fucked Up is anything but that.

The guitars, played by Mike Haliechuck, Josh Zucker and Ben Cook, were bright with distinguishable, catchy riffs. Falco played his drums tightly with a propelling, upbeat intricacy. The bassist, Sandy Miranda, kept a steady rolling groove that formed the backbone of every song. They gave Abraham the room to be a charismatic front man while they focused solely on playing great music.

A secret of Fucked Up’s last few albums is that they are great headphone albums because they play an optimistic-sounding brand of classic, multi-layered rock. Haliechuck has formed a guitar sound that would on surface seem at odds with the typical perception of punk as three chord rockers. What makes them special is how Haliechuck’s perfect headphone instrumentals combine with Abraham’s voice and well-thought out lyrics.

While I couldn’t understand a word Abraham said, even being a diehard fan of the band, those elements came together for a show that held up musically and, yes, from the second song on, met my expectations for theater. I was nervous at first, but Fucked Up did not disappoint.


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