Fucked Up gets naked and muddy at SXSW

Categories: SXSW
Photo by Stacy Schwartz
Hugging a mostly naked hairy fat man covered in muddy water was one of the best experiences of South By Southwest. If performance artists realized that they could find a much larger audience by backing everything with an attack of thick guitars and propulsive drums, we would have a lot more interactive theater and lot more bands like Fucked Up assaulting common decency and expurgating social conventions.

The setup for this amazing psychic and performative punchline is pretty simple- take what appear to be well-adjusted clean-cut Canadian kids who like a heavier punkish indie sound, and then say, "Fuck it, let's throw in this overweight hairy guy who smashes things on his forehead and takes off his clothes and see how that goes." Turns out it works fantastically. A little terrifyingly, but any time you are confronted with your deepest scatological and sexual fears and desires, it's bound to get overwhelming.

At the SPIN party on Friday, Fucked Up had barely hit a note before Damian "Pink Eyes" Abraham, the aforementioned overweight hairy man, began bashing his mic over his head. Just, you know, as a warning shot across the bows civilized behavior. Before the first song was done, he was clambering off the stage and into a clearing and announced that "by the end of the show we won't be able to able to look eachother in the eye." Then, by way of clarifying metaphor, told the crowd that it was like the time when he was 12 and he and a friend masturbated in front of eachother. "We haven't spoken since. This is going to be like that. Haven't any of you ever done that?" One hand up. "Well, if you're not admitting it you're homophobic!"

It's pretty silly to describe in text what happens next. Pink Eyes howls into the mic that he's carrying around, pulling his shirt over his head. Audience members (your writer included) rub his belly. People back away uncertain. Pink Eyes affixes a plastic cup the top of his head like a crushed fez and turns down a drink offered to him because he doesn't drink alcohol. He's just like this. Then he charges over to an unwitting audience member and picks him up, flipped upside-down, with feet kicking in the air. As the rest of the band dutifully keeps playing, he goes on a run through the crowd, grabbing people to pose for pictures, planting kisses and giving hugs. People are laughing, partly out of nervousness, partly because it's ridiculously great to watch someone doing whatever they want.

Photo by Stacy Schwartz
Photo by Stacy Schwartz
They play a song about hating summer and Pink Eyes gets on his knees to chug Pepsi while cracking jokes about the Quebec secession. For the coup-de-grace, he has bandmate Mike Haliechuk toss down bottles of water, Shouting "CFL" when he makes an impressive one-handed catch. He then pours them all out into the dirt in front of the stage, making a one-man moshpit, strips off his already tenuously hanging on shorts and shoes and lays down in the mud, rolling around to a well-covered brown glaze. Throughout all this, the band is jacking up the adrenaline, pounding away at the beat. The crowd pulls in closer, just to witness the application of dirt. Pink Eyes pops up and charges towards the crowd with his arms open. Most people scatter, but one brave soul stands his ground and accepts the hug. More people do too. As the band covers the Sex Pistols, more bottles of water bottles of water are thrown down and Pink Eyes has the crowd hose him down in almost campily erotic style. "You guys," he says with a joking gleam in his eye, "don't put this on the internet. I don't want my wife to see it."

Photo by Stacy Schwartz
And that's the best part of this and the reason it works -- none of it is malicious, or predicated on anger or violence. It's almost sweetly childish, looking for release however we can get it in whatever fecund ways possible. The name really just says it all -- he's fucked up, we're fucked up, let's all get fucked and unfucked together.

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