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all words: Andy Hess
all photos: from SXSW (where we saw Fucked Up 80000 times, it seems-ed)
To label Toronto’s Fucked Up as a hardcore act is a misnomer. Sort of.

Yes, Pink Eyes — real name Damian Abraham — barks vocals while the band assaults your ears with their vicious three-guitar attack, but the sextet isn’t as SERIOUS. ALL. THE. TIME. as you would expect. This has mostly to do with Abraham’s lovable personality that’s one part everydude and one part professional wrestler. It also helps when he promises a back-rub for everyone in the room and that this show will make up for last one. According to Abraham it was in the top five for the worst Fucked Up shows, but Thursday night at the Rock and Roll Hotel was quite the opposite.

Dressed in a green sweatshirt, gym shorts and smile, Abraham thanked the crowd for coming and ripped into “The Two Snakes”. Then the figurative and literal shirts came off. What followed was an hour long set of pulverizing drums, screeching guitars, hugging, group chants, hot candle wax, a piggy-back ride and a brief wrestling match between a fan and Abraham which ended in the kid being finished off with a reverse-pile-driver.

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I’d hate to make this review about Abraham, but it’s hard when his personality commands so much attention that it feels like it’s more of the Damian Abraham Program soundtracked by five seriously gifted musicians. 10,000 Marbles, Concentration Camp/Gulag and Young Governor/Bad Kid/Lil’ Bitey — real names Mike Haliechuk, Josh Zucker and Ben Cook — provide the swirling guitars that give the music its unique qualities and separate the group from their peers in terms of what a casual listener of the genre may expect from a hardcore band. Songs like “Son the Father”, “Crooked Head” and “Black Albino Bones” from 2009’s amazing The Chemistry of Common Life are some of the prime examples where the deviations of the format turn something ordinary into something unbelievably good.

If Abraham was on a mission to make up for the problems last time they were in town, he succeeded with flying colors and probably made friends with another hundred or so people at the same time.

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Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings, who were finishing up their string of dates with Fucked Up Thursday night, play bedroom punk that’s reminiscent of the Buzzcocks or 999 were definitely the odd man out on the bill but filled the role admirably even though it was hard to tell what people thought of them. During their 40 minute set, most stayed near the bar or nodded along but there was not much of an invitation to keep playing.

That said what they played, with most of it coming from this year’s Turning On, was a great breather between the heavier acts of Fucked Up and Give. Singer Dylan Baldi on record is drenched in reverb and masked in guitars, but live the clean vocals are reminiscent of a cross between The Thermals Hutch Harris and The Weakerthans John K. Sampson. Baldi’s backing band was in tight form, but seemed uninterested in actually playing the material. Maybe it was the cold reception to begin with, which is unfortunate, but you’ll probably be seeing more from them soon.

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