Walking into the Brudenell Social Club, I have expectations. I’ve never been to this venue before, but I’ve heard crazy things about the band I’m going to see tonight; that is, Fucked Up. Josh Zucker, the original frontman, got moved to rhythm guitar after missing several crucial shows while in jail for punching a Toronto police officer who had stolen a ham sandwich from him. Jonah Falco, on drums, has had to keep the existence of Fucked Up a secret from his family, with whom he lives, after his father declared the band’s name “…made him want to vomit.” And their tourmates, Let’s Wrestle, got arrested a few weeks ago for undisclosed reasons. Crazy times, all in all.
But when I get there, I’m told the gig isn’t starting for about half an hour, but if I want then I can go sit in the bar and get a drink. I manage to catch roughly five seconds of Fucked Up soundchecking before I’m turned away, so my friend and I decide to go sit in the bar as per suggested. Cue the most surreal half hour of my life. While there, we can hear Fucked Up clearly through the walls, the sound just louder than the Michael Jackson discography that appears to be playing in the bar.
The venue is, actually, a social club and my friend and I seem to be interrupting the regular drinking schedules of five elderly men at the bar. It’s quite odd, to say the least.
Finally, we’re allowed into the main room. After looking at the merch — YS Fucked Up tshirts are all but sold out — we take a seat near the front. It’s quite dead, with only a scattering of people, all sat around politely with drinks. And the main band take the stage.
Geoffrey Oicott, an old-school Oi! punk band with a very strong Yorkshire theme. At first, I find them amusing. The frontman is dressed in cricket whites, their songs are about “dartsmens’ wives” and “the war of the roses” and they even throw a Rancid cover in there. But before long, the Yorkshire gimmick begins to wear thin. The songs all sound vaguely similar, and are of a genre that — let’s be honest — stopped being fun a while ago. Three songs in, and I’m wondering how long it will be before Geoffrey Oicott leave the stage.
Following them, it’s indie pop band Let’s Wrestle, who seem an odd choice for this tour. Their reception from the audience is muted, something they don’t seem to be phased by. Wesley Patrick Gonzalez, lead vocals and guitar, chooses to sit down on the stage opposite Mike Lightning, bass and vocals, for about five minutes. There seems to be no apparent reason for this. Their stage manner is awkward, and Gonzalez mumbles into the mic with very little coherency. Their first song is called ‘I Wish I Was In Husker Du’, and they almost appear to be confused about where they are.
Nevertheless, I love them. Their music is fresh and original, something rarely heard in the Yorkshire indie scene, and catchy without being irritating. The audience don’t know how to take them, and the applause is little and scattered.
Let’s Wrestle make damn good enjoyable music and don’t care what anyone else thinks about it, and after their set I can’t help going to the merch table and handing over £8 in return for the In Loving Memory Of… EP. Listening to it later, it’s completely worth it.
Then, onto the headliners.
Toronto hardcore band Fucked Up wander onto stage, and spend a few minutes tuning up before ripping into their opening song. I haven’t, sadly, listened to enough Fucked Up to be able to properly distinguish one song from another — something which I’ll hopefully amend — but the songs don’t need to be known to be enjoyed. Frontman Damien, known as Pink Eyes, has an amazing stage presence and the crowd — now packed around the stage — go completely crazy. Pink Eyes jumps down from the stage and wanders around the venue, screaming into a microphone and being jumped on by the boys in the moshpit.
There is no such thing as ‘the front’ at a Fucked Up gig. Pink Eyes sometimes stands on a wall, sometimes strides up and down. In between songs, he provides witty banter, speaking about the time there was a young girl missing in Canada and, at a gig in Toronto, he stated that ‘they haven’t checked my basement!’ It was, he tells us, one of the scariest jokes of his life. The banter is enjoyable, and the atmosphere is unbelievable.
Pink Eyes is the main focal point — allowing others to scream into his mic, always a part of the moshing going on, going up as close as he can to as many people as he can. The band, understandably, are easy to forget — they remain on stage, playing out the music to Pink Eyes’ vocals. However, they are fantastic. They never once lose their rhythm or timing, something hard to do when the frontman is, quite literally, all over the place. NME have described Fucked Up gigs as a ‘whirlwind of violence’ and while that as may be, it shouldn’t be detracted from the music.
A Fucked Up show isn’t a show so much as an experience; it sounds crazy but it’s true. It’s something that I feel you have to experience at least once in your life — I, for one, plan on going to see them every time I can in the future. A++ show, would most definitely see again.