At Fortune Sound Club on Friday, August 15
It’s a time-honoured tradition that a touring band should compliment the city it’s playing in, regardless of the musicians’ true feelings on the matter. On the other hand, when hirsute Fucked Up screamer Damian Abraham sang Vancouver’s praises during his band’s Friday-night set at Fortune Sound Club, he really seemed to mean it.
Over the course of the Toronto sextet’s hour-plus appearance, the vocalist gushed about our city’s sushi, natural scenery, and musical legacy, and he name-checked classic punk acts including the Subhumans, D.O.A., and the Dishrags. Proving the depth of his local knowledge, he qualified a shout-out to d.b.s. by pointing out that the long-defunct band hailed from Lynn Valley in North Vancouver.
Of course, there was one reason why the former host of MuchMusic’s The Wedge was especially excited to be in Vancouver: our marijuana.
The frontman made no secret of his affection for weed; following an opening set of boppy (but slightly repetitive) garage-punk from Long Beach trio Tijuana Panthers, Abraham took the stage wearing a green shirt with a pot-leaf logo and the slogan “Dank Times”.
Fucked Up’s six musicians took their places as dramatic piano chords were piped over the PA, and this led into a couple of melodic cuts that showcased why the Polaris Music Prize–winning band’s hardcore punk has such crossover appeal. On the scorching “Paper the House” from this year’s Glass Boys, Abraham’s larynx-abusing howls were paired with tunefully sung hooks from his bandmates, and the towering love narrative “Queen of Hearts” found him in a duet with with bassist Sandy Miranda. The group’s three guitarists kept their amps cranked, meaning that even this sweet number was crushingly loud and ferociously distorted.
The room was filled with a diverse crowd that ranged from clusters of punks wearing studded vests to slightly more tidy-looking couples on dates. These people united [“in”?] a frenzy of moshing, and one particularly rambunctious fan became the evening’s first of many crowd surfers when he managed to stand upright for several seconds atop the throng.
Abraham peeled off his T-shirt a couple of songs in to reveal his hairy back, and a few onlookers followed suit, proving that this was a no-shirt-no-shoes-no-problem type of affair.
The microphone-wielding star was looking slimmer than he has in years past, something that he chalked up to “some weird fucking side effect of smoking weed”. He wasn’t shy about getting up close and personal with the revellers, allowing folks in the front row to rub his bald head and giving them a glimpse of the forehead scar he infamously incurred by smashing a glass on his own cranium. When one fan held a middle finger aloft, Abraham didn’t hesitate to put it in his mouth.
During the first of several monologues praising Vancouver, the former straight-edge yeller noted, “Now that I smoke weed, holy shit do I love this town.” Soon after, someone handed him what appeared to be a small pen-shaped vaporizer and he popped it in his mouth. It didn’t appear to be loaded, however, and one concerned dude standing behind me remarked, “That’s how you get a cold sore.”
During the set, Abraham ventured out into the crowd, doling out bear hugs and clambering onto a booth on one side of the room. He laughed as a couple of fans spanked him on the rear of his Nike athletic shorts, and he discussed meeting the so-called “Prince of Pot”, Marc Emery, a couple of days prior.
Then, during “Black Albino Bones”, Abraham crossed the crowded floor and bellowed while standing on the bar, pausing briefly to down a shot and taking swigs from a bottle that someone handed him.
It was a wild, rowdy spectacle, and yet Abraham managed to keep the party relatively safe and civilized. Once he pushed his way back up to the front, he politely offered to safeguard any audience members’ breakable items on the stage. He admitted that the first day of tour always left him feeling a little “bummed” due to saying goodbye to his family, but he described this triumphant kick-off show as taking him “from the lowest low to the highest high”.
The energy continued to rise from there, with the late-set anthem “The Other Shoe” proving to be a particularly blistering highlight. Everyone in the room chanted along [“with”] the song’s refrain of “Dying on the inside”, turning this gloomy phrase into a euphoric mantra.
The show ended when Fucked Up reached the 10:30 p.m. curfew, but Abraham didn’t seem to want to leave, offering repeated F-bomb-laden thank-yous and holding his hands up in the shape of a heart. As fans began to file out and Fortune transitioned into a DJ night, the frontman walked out onto the floor to give sweaty hugs to the faithful who stuck around.
From this it was clear that not only does Abraham love Vancouver, our city loves him right back.