Arriving early to Hangar, State inadvertently catches Bitch Falcon sound checking and feels a touch embarrassed for intruding. The Dublin trio eventually battle through some sound issues and a slowly-emerging and polite crowd in tremendous fashion, their brand of sludge-covered grunge registering as both inspired tribute and inspirational statement. ‘Wolfstooth’ in particular proves quite the hypnotic gambit. Lizzie Fitzpatrick makes for a wonderful contradiction, a focused banshee when engaged in furiously playing off Converge-esque bass lines and armed with the demeanour of a polite schoolteacher in between. There’s little polish here, nor is there any real need for it. What we do have in their nascent state is arguably the most intriguing proposition in the country right now. May they never be complete, may they never be content.
Strong Boys, hampered by instant technical difficulties, a lengthy delay in which everyone looks terrified and a low-rent aggro Rob Halford impersonator for a frontman, haven’t a hope though there’s something oddly avant-garde about them kicking right back into their opening track after four minutes of dead air.
Damian Abraham should have been a professional wrestler. Blessed with a huge amount of charisma and a penchant for taking the action to the heart of the crowd, the Fucked Up leader tonight at least gets a fitting chance to pay homage to the squared circle. As polling stations across the country prepare to sign off for the evening, Abraham “kicks things off right” by leading the crowd in Daniel Bryan-esque ‘YES!’ chants, his arms pointed high above his equality-emblazoned forehead before ‘Queen of Hearts’ steals in and the place goes appropriately apeshit. It’s as blistering a beginning as you could hope for, nervous energy swapped out for screaming catharsis.
By the time ‘Sun Glass’ hits, Abraham is right there growling in front of you one minute and a disembodied voice across the room the next. Occasionally, you catch sight – and grasp – of a microphone cord that will at one point be wrapped so many times around his head he briefly resembles one of the lesser-imagined Cenobites from the Hellraiser series. ‘I Hate Summer’, meanwhile, is trailed by a heartfelt sermon on antidepressants and the apparent weight-loss benefits of marijuana. Abraham looks notably trimmer tonight, though he’s lost none of his presence. He’s quite the orator, too, peppering a fast-paced set with clever and authentic Dublin-based asides. An attempt to explain the minutiae of hometown WWE superstar Sheamus’ character falls largely on confused ears but there’s a hearty cheer for the notion that Fucked Up are the perfect cross between Paranoid Visions and Horslips.
Time passes as a shirtless Abraham continues to discover new corners of the building, returning to the stage with a crown of candle wax, the letters on his head smudged now. Fear not, for one of the many disciples in the front row manages to keep hold long enough to scrawl out a clear ‘YES’ on the singer’s side. No mean feat, given his restlessness. Somewhere in between, Abraham will address his look, noting that tracksuit pants at a social function – ‘The Drake Rule’ – is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. ‘Led by Hand’ is a stormer, as are ‘Turn the Season’ – the line “Never been as happy as I am today” especially loud under Hangar’s roof – and a spectacular ‘The Other Shoe’. The mood is buoyant even as ‘Police’ wraps things up, a matter-of-fact Abraham admitting that he wasn’t sure of how he felt about admonishing law enforcement when guitarist Mike Haliechuk wrote it 15 years ago. Now it comes with stark poignancy, a bittersweet kiss goodnight.
Earlier, Abraham off-handedly mentioned how he used to work in a bar. “Julian Casablancas tried to make out with me”, he recalled before noting how he used up his best story too soon. Not so, for the Fucked Up story continues to be written. Having them brutally and brilliantly kick off a truly monumental weekend in this country made for one hell of a fresh chapter.
Fucked Up photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko