Concerts Concerts NXNE 2011: Fucked Up Thursday

NXNE 2011: Fucked Up Thursday

Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square
NXNE 2011: Fucked Up Thursday
Metz, Fucked Up, OFF!, Crocodiles, Dirty Beaches
Toronto, ON
June 16, 2011

Review by: Max Mertens
Photos by: Michelle Cortese

After last year's free Iggy Pop performance at Yonge Dundas Square, which closed Yonge Street and had the police on standby for any potential rioting, the bar had been set pretty high for punk shows at NXNE.

Luckily for Toronto punk fans, Thursday's evening lineup was pretty stacked, with sets from Metz, Fucked Up, OFF!, and seminal 80's California hardcore punk band Descendents.

Metz

I've said it before and I'll say it again — Metz are one of the most underrated live bands (of any genre) from Toronto. The trio consists of Chris Slorach (bass), Alex Edkins (guitar), and Hayden Menzies (drums), and they play blisteringly fast noise rock, that draws inspiration from 90's grunge and punk bands including the Melvins and Drive Like Jehu. Songs like "Negative Space" and "Wet Blanket" bludgeon you over your head with their volume, but in the best possible way. While it was strange to see them playing on an outdoor stage in daylight, as I've previously only seen them play in dark, cramped bars late at night, they made the most of the larger stage. Hopefully with higher profile performances like this, they won't stay this city's little secret for much longer.

Info: Metz
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METZ at Yonge-Dundas Square   METZ at Yonge-Dundas Square   METZ at Yonge-Dundas Square   METZ at Yonge-Dundas Square   METZ at Yonge-Dundas Square   METZ at Yonge-Dundas Square   METZ at Yonge-Dundas Square  

Fucked Up

If there were any questions as to whether or not Fucked Up have become widely accepted outside the Toronto punk community, than this high energy performance settled that debate, as the band was given a hero's welcome by the large audience that had quickly gathered at Yonge Dundas Square. After two critically well-received studio albums, winning the 2009 Polaris Prize, chaotic performances at festivals and shows all over the world, this show felt every bit like a homecoming for the Toronto six-piece. The headline that ran with the band's recent NOW Magazine cover story couldn't have been more apt: Fucked Up: Punk Superstars Grow Up & Blow Up.

And what a homecoming it was. With his wife and young son watching side-stage, it took approximately half a song for lead singer Damian Abraham to jump into the masses, and three songs for him to lose his shirt. Ever the charismatic frontman, he told jokes, pulled moshing kids out of the crowd to safety, and talked about losing his passport on the Dufferin bus ("If anyone here works at the passport office and is a collector of Fucked Up vinyl, than they just hit the mother lode").

While Abraham might have gotten the majority of the crowd and photographers' attention, the rest of the band are no slouches when it comes to the music. They played plenty of material from their stellar new album David Comes To Life, including "The Other Shoe" and "Ship Of Fools", while seamlessly integrating older fan favourites and B-sides like "I Hate Summer". Most bands today wouldn't dare to write a rock-opera, much less one that runs almost eighty minutes long, and is a commentary on Margaret Thatcher and 1980's English politics. This is Fucked Up in a nutshell though. Ambition looks good on them and it has made them one of the best Canadian bands around today. The only complaint was that this set could have been longer, but from the look on people's faces there, the majority of the crowd went away satisfied.

Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square   Fucked Up at Yonge-Dundas Square  

OFF!

On paper, Los Angeles' OFF! seemed like a good idea. After all, its four members previously belonged to some of California's most influential hardcore punk and rock bands from the 70's, 80's, and 90's, including Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Hot Snakes, Rocket From The Crypt, and Redd Kross. Maybe it was the fact that they had the unenviable task of playing after Fucked Up, but they looked tired onstage in comparison, and relied too heavily on lead singer Keith Morris' "Screw the government"-type banter. While the quartet could have redeemed these comments with good songs, there was nothing particularly remarkable or unique about their set. Unfortunately, much like the popular brand of mosquito repellent that the band share a name with, they didn't really get the job done.

Info: OFF!
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OFF! at Yonge-Dundas Square   OFF! at Yonge-Dundas Square   OFF! at Yonge-Dundas Square   OFF! at Yonge-Dundas Square   OFF! at Yonge-Dundas Square   OFF! at Yonge-Dundas Square   OFF! at Yonge-Dundas Square  

Crocodiles

Our next stop on the itinerary was a packed Silver Dollar, where San Diego's Crocodiles provided us with a very welcome second wind to the night. One of the best new discoveries at this year's NXNE, the band plays lo-fi post-punk à la Echo & the Bunnymen and The Jesus & Mary Chain (the band's name is taken from the title of the former's debut album) with gloomy pop melodies. Lead singer Brandon Welchez's poise was reminiscent of Julian Casablancas, as he yelped and strutted across the stage, dressed in a blazer and a Misfits t-shirt. Not once did he take his sunglasses off either. While they played plenty of material from their most recent album, Sleep Forever, the hook-filled nihilistic "I Wanna Kill" from 2009's Summer of Hate remains the best song the band has written to date.

Crocodiles at Silver Dollar   Crocodiles at Silver Dollar   Crocodiles at Silver Dollar   Crocodiles at Silver Dollar   Crocodiles at Silver Dollar   Crocodiles at Silver Dollar   Crocodiles at Silver Dollar   Crocodiles at Silver Dollar  

Dirty Beaches

One of the eagerly-anticipated performances of the week was from Dirty Beaches, aka Montreal via Taiwan singer-songwriter Alex Zhang Hungtai, whose set had The Silver Dollar packed almost to capacity. Wearing a leather jacket and bathed in red spotlights, Hungtai was a mesmerizing performer, as he barked out lyrics, prowled across the stage, and played the guitar on his knees. His music is an unholy combination of scuzzy garage rock, 50's Elvis, and a lost David Lynch soundtrack, with a smattering of world-weary blues and soul. Highlights from the set included a cover of California band Mattress' "El Dorado" and a ferocious rendition of "Sweet 17", from his debut album Badlands, which was recently named to the long list for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize. And for good reason — Hungtai is making music that manages to be incredibly unique, while being a throwback to a different era. Expect to be hearing a lot more about this guy in the near future.

Dirty Beaches at Silver Dollar   Dirty Beaches at Silver Dollar   Dirty Beaches at Silver Dollar   Dirty Beaches at Silver Dollar