Eight and a half hours after Fucked Up played its last song, my hearing was still dangerously (permanently?) damaged. Human voices sounded like muffled, faraway echoes from inside an empty beer can. Carefully modulated music became nonsensical rumble. Half-dead cars crept through the streets, roaring like shitty spaceships.
At the time, the only thing I could make out with any kind of crispness was the low, ambient hum of household appliances. Example: I could hear my laptop's thought processes as if they were my own — hard drive spinning, battery sucking energy, speakers wheezing.
This is the kind of physical destruction (i.e., exploded ears) a true fan pays for the pleasure of getting Fucked Up. There's no middle ground with these Canadian hardcore killers: It's either full immersion or nothing at all. And last week's postmidnight invasion of Churchill's was an all-out attack on the human body — a ten-foot dive into an awesome pit of punishment.
When it started, Father Damian (AKA Pink Eyes, Mr. Damian, Damian Abraham) was still wearing a shirt. There were jeans and a crooked baseball cap too. But after five minutes of brutal noise ("Two Snakes" and "David Comes to Life"), Damian got hot and sweaty and began to strip. First, he threw away the hat. Next, he ripped off the tee. Last, he wiggled his ass out of the jeans.
Meanwhile, the rest of the band members kept their clothes on, except drummer Mr. Jo (AKA Jonah Falco), who also shed his shirt. Lurking in the shadows, guitar guy 10,000 Marbles (AKA Mike Haliechuk), cohorts Concentration Camp (AKA Gulag, Josh Zucker) and Young Governor (AKA Ben Cook), and bass player Mustard Gas (Sandy Miranda) stood still, rubbing out their parts in private.
But Damian was raging. He screamed in front-row faces. He shoved the mike down our throats, asking for a sing-along. He paced the stage in search of something unspecified. Then he beat his chest and joined the pit and climbed the bar and let some kid ride him like a baby monkey. Chaos had taken hold.
Ripping from "Crusades" to "Baiting the Public" to "Police," Father Damian and Fucked Up only ratcheted the rage. Maybe it was my ears slowly exploding. But the volume climbed to a perfect, painful place. The guitar lines began to hiss. The bass drum pounded and the cymbals rattled wildly, whipping into crescendos of unnatural, all-consuming noise. People opened their mouths to scream and nothing came out.
Off in remote parts of the place, bodies were piling up. The pit was packed with skinny guys and black-eyed girls running circles, taking heavy hits, and falling underfoot. The casualties were everywhere. Damian roamed offstage for a closer look. He pulled a few back to a standing position, accidentally wound his microphone cord around a pole, mugged someone for fun, unwound his way back to the stage, and called out for Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown" while Marbles, CC, Young Gov, Gassy, and Jo slashed into the last minutes of the show.
Here the punishment turned perverse. Kids streaked up, pounding the dust out of Churchill's ancient carpet, trying to pull down Damian's boxers, jumping into the mass below, hitting the floor, and then bouncing back with smiles. Repeat, repeat, repeat... It was unsettling. It was insane. It was awesome.
Seconds later, Fucked Up was done. And outside on the sidewalk, I tried to have a conversation with someone I'd never met. But I couldn't hear a word he said. I could hear his cell phone thinking, though.
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Personal bias: I am a big fan of damaging experiences, so Fucked Up is a state of being I've embraced for years.
The crowd: Punks with face tattoos. Nerds minus their bifocals. Ladies ready to mosh.
Overheard in the crowd: Guy: "What band is headlining? Someone from Toronto? Huh? They're called Fucked Up? What does that mean?" Girl, laughing: "You'll find out."