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Part I: Psychedelic Horseshit
I’m sure all of us at one time or another have known some dickhead who regularly made it a point to justify his boorish behavior by braying, “Whatever, I don’t give a fuck,” or some variant thereof.
This, we all know, is bullshit, akin to perennial mom-favorite niceboy songsmith Billy Joel branding himself a “luuuunatic.” People who really don’t care about what others think of them don’t have to explain themselves to everyone within earshot. They let their actions do the talking.
Enter Psychedelic Horseshit, only the second band I’ve ever seen that I’d actually believe if they told me that they didn’t give a whit of a shit about public perception. If fuck-giving was measured in Kelvin degrees, I’d bet my weight in geldings that they’d temp absolute zero.
The drummer used an empty Jose Cuervo box in lieu of a real kick drum. The bassist… Well, he was rather non-descript, content to hang back in his corner of the stage and lay down a solid low-end base for whatever the fuck the frontman thought he was accomplishing.
The frontman was a triple threat of ineptitude: he lackadaisically talk-sung like a quarter-assed Bob Dylan impersonator, skronked on the exact same $99 Squier Stratocaster shitbox that I used to plunk out “Iron Man” and “Ace of Spades” on in my best friend’s basement when I was 14 and tickled the synth ivories with all the graceful virtuosity of a sausage-fingered quadriplegic Parkinson’s patient in oven mitts.
Their set was the musical equivalent of that time your friend got so utterly shitfaced that he:
a) was physically unable to do anything other than bonk his head semi-rhythmically into the table you were all sitting at and mumble to no one in particular about how Kevin Smith is the voice of a generation and Bruce Campbell is the most underrated actor in film today.
b) sat crouched in the corner of the basement while everyone else played beer pong, stripping off one article of clothing every five minutes or so until he was in nothing but his flimsy, ball-exposing boxers. Someone then whispered, “Oh god, I hope he doesn’t get naked.” Your friend, overhearing this and interpreting it as a dare, then peeled off said boxers, threw them across the room and giggled to himself while rocking back and forth in the seated fetal position.
c) decided to leave the party and walk three miles to his house in the middle of a brutal Buffalo winter after drinking something like 22 beers and 4 tequila shots. Of course, he only made it about 100 feet before falling into a snow bank. Unable to get up because he couldn’t quite figure out how to get his hands out of his pockets, he was helped to his feet by a friendly police officer. The officer asked your friend where he was coming from. “Uh… Oh… I don’t know,” was his brilliant reply. The officer then decided to give your friend a ride home, as it was painfully obvious that he wasn’t going to make it there by himself. Your friend thanked the officer for his courtesy by sleep-vomiting all over the back seat of the squad car. The officer, who was no longer feeling very friendly, abruptly stopped the car, pulled your friend out and sped back to the station, leaving your friend to his own devices.
In other words, they were an absolute shambling wreck, far more entertaining in their awfulness than most bands are when they play the most solid set of their careers.
The fact that there were people there who actually seemed to enjoy their music on a non-ironic level -- two girls at the front of the stage were giggling and whispering in each others’ ears and almost-but-not-quite kissing while doing that white chick dance where it looks like they’re half-skipping, half-running in place, while bearded contemplatives stood expressionless with their arms folded or their hands in the pockets of their hoodies while slightly nodding in dour approval -- just made it even more surreally hilarious. I could barely muster enough self-control to stop belly-laughing long enough to drink my beer.
Would I buy their records and listen to them at home? Hell no. Would I go see them live again for slightly more than the price of a movie ticket? Hell yes.
The final verdict: one of the best worst bands ever. If they were a movie, they’d be Plan 9 From Outer Space. See it to believe it.
Part II: Fucked Up
Over the years, I’ve found that a band’s “punkness” is directly proportional to the strength of its fan base’s body odor.
If you walk into the club or bar or basement or what have you and it smells like, say, a locker room filled with the rotting corpses of a gaggle of hippies who had just completed the Tour de France and then suffocated on their own noxious crotch and armpit fumes, you can be sure that the band you’re about to watch is punk to the mothafuckin’ bone.
The less gag-inducing the smell, the further the band is from pure punk. It’s a formula that never fails.
(I attempted to devise a similar barometer based on beards since the Grizzly Adams look seems to have replaced the 2-foot-tall mohawk as punk rock’s follicular disaster of choice, but I scrapped that because I remembered that the indie hipster crowd has embraced facial hirsuteness as well and that would screw with the metaphor.)
((And while we’re on the subject of beards, a word of advice to a couple of kids I saw at the show: if your facial hair is too patchy to form a proper beard, stripping it down to a moustache does not make you look any better. Sporting a full-on pubic archipelago on your mug makes you look like a sloppy 12 year old with a mild case of Progeria. Creepy, but still passable. But shaving everything but your crustache makes you look like Napoleon Dynamite’s child molester uncle. I consulted my girlfriend and a number of other female acquaintences and they all agree: kid touchers are not attractive. So if you ever hope to touch a boob without the aid of booze, cocaine or rohypnol, shave that shit. The More You Know…))
But even though the air is a little fresher when Fucked Up plays nowadays, their shows are still as wild as ever.
Musically, they‘re at the top of their game. They recently added a third guitarist/backup vocalist to help inject a little more nuance into the band’s explosive, power-packed live sound. The result? The newer songs sounded incredible, making an exceedingly excellent transition from their densely layered, almost orchestral studio forms to their more stripped-down, aggressive live incarnations, and the old favorites sounded better than ever.
The crowd was in rare form that night as well. From first song to last, the fans were in a frenzy. Limbs were flailed, heads were banged, crowds were surfed and traffic cones were flung. Yes, I said “traffic cones were flung.” Some geniuses went outside, grabbed an oversized traffic cone and whipped it across the room, narrowly missing several people’s heads, including that of Buffalo hardcore mainstay Aaron Adkins of Everything Falls Apart and Able Danger, who shook his head in disbelief at the display of jackassery that he had just witnessed and muttered to himself, “You damn kids and your music. This is why punks can‘t have nice things.” Then he shook his fist at them like he had never shaken his fist at anything before. (OK, I really don’t know what he said because he was across the room and the fist shaking part didn’t happen. But that’s how I like to imagine it, so nyah.)
But the biggest ups have to go to vocalist Damien Abraham for providing the antics that gave the show the extra nudge it needed to cross the threshold from mere goodness to total greatness.
Most of the time when musicians play (or fool themselves into thinking that they play) music that’s progressive and forward-looking, they put on their po-faces and get all stoic and Christ-like on our asses because they’re working sooooo hard and their art is so very, very Serious and Important that any trace of undue joy would diminish its power, which is such that if their latest, greatest album was played simultaneously on all of the radios in the world, AIDS in Africa would be nothing more than an unpleasant memory.
But Damien, frontman of the most progessive, forward-looking punk band in recent memory, is a goddamn comedian.
During soundcheck, he tested the microphones by shouting into them through a long cardboard tube so as not to diminish the effect of his grand entrance during the first song. Within minutes of taking the stage, he stripped off nearly all of his clothing until he was wearing nothing more than boxers and a tuque (that’s Canadian for “a fuzzy winter hat with a little ball thingy on the top” for all of you non-border towners out there) and as we all know, fat guys + nudity = comedy gold. He pulled down his boxers to show us how tightly his ass was clenched from holding in a shit because he was, in his words, “so close to home (Toronto) that I’m just gonna hold it in and poop in my own toilet.” He grabbed a belt from an audience member and strapped it around his flabby chest to “keep my boobs under control.” He even joked about his band’s recent rise to semi-fame: “I was standing next to some guy outside and he’s like, ‘Oh, man, they’re so over-hyped.’ And I just went, dude, I’m right here! Obviously we’re not hyped enough if you don’t even know who the fuck I am!”
Hopefully someday everyone will eventually know who the fuck Fucked Up is. With their killer music and balls-out performance style, they damn sure deserve the fame.
Fucked Up and Psychedelic Horseshit at the Mohawk Place gets a rating of two massive, dimpled, jiggling, pasty Canadian butt cheeks, the sight of which will haunt my dreams for the rest of my days.
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