Concert review: The sweetest punk mayhem with Fucked Up and Jeff the Brotherhood at the Firebird, Friday, July 1

Fucked Up

anthemic (an-the-mik)
(of a song) like an anthem in being rousing or uplifting.
See also: F*cked Up at the Firebird on Friday, July 1, 2011.

F*cked Up and Jeff the Brotherhood could not have picked a better St. Louis venue than the Firebird for their show Friday night.

The venue is beloved by garage and punk acts — or any band on the wilder side of things — for being permissive about band antics. Garage-punk hooligans Black Lips, for instance, have deemed it one of their favorites for being able to get away with shenanigans they might not elsewhere, as the staff only intervenes if concertgoers are in true danger of being hurt.

Warming up the venue was Jeff the Brotherhood, a pair of real-life, basement-bred brothers who have been finally gaining some well-deserved notoriety since their recent release, We Are The Champions. Jake (on guitar and vocals) and Jamin have brought their brand of Nashville garage-psych to St. Louis about four times in the past two years, two of those times as a headliner. Though the crowd was tepid at first and unfamiliar with the music (most having come to see F*cked Up), it only took until the end of the aptly-titled “Shredder” to win them over. By the second song, heads were bopping and loud whoops of support signaled their success.

The screaming jet-plane effects of a flanger guitar pedal were persistent throughout the set, though perhaps utilized most gratuitously during the fast-paced, feel-good jam “I’m a Freak,” during which Jake meandered into the crowd for a solo. All the while, little bro Jamin chugged along tirelessly and frenetically on drums, flapping his shaggy mop of hair all too reminiscent of Animal from The Muppet Show. The second half of the set was comprised mostly of new songs, carried primarily by a grungy, ’90s vibe, perhaps most accurately described as the best of Weezer’s snot-nosed pop hooks covered in a thick grime à la Kurt Cobain. Overall, Jeff’s set was a roaring success, and much more powerful and energetic than its last lackluster appearance at the Gargoyle in the spring.

Never having seen F*cked Up in concert before (despite being regaled by tales of its highly-rated live shows), I was a little confused when the band took the stage to set up. I had been expecting the members of a hardcore band that plays shows with punk vets OFF! and the Descendents to look, I don’t know, a little less clean-cut. Collared shirts, heads full of hair, and clean-shaven baby faces were soon mitigated by the emergence of frontman Damian Abraham, aka Pink Eyes, aka Father Damian. Bald, large and tattooed, his profile was more in line with what I’d been told to expect from the band.

Now, I could tell you about the music I heard Friday night, but the musical side of things was honestly secondary to the force of personality that was Damian Abraham. He may have appeared a little scary at first, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more affable, kind-hearted performer in punk music. Within seconds, his raw, screaming “I gargle with broken glass and gasoline” vocals and the accompanying wall of riffage and noise had set the crowd moshing, though the pit may be more aptly described as one of incredibly enthusiastic dancing. Bassist Sandy Miranda provided jarringly delicate backing vocals on “Queen of Hearts,” the unexpected addition of a mellifluous female voice calling to mind Kim Deal’s role as a foil to Black Francis’ guttural howls in the Pixies.

Between almost every song, Abraham thanked the crowd profusely and earnestly for coming out to “spend their Canada day with them” (the band being from Toronto). To further illustrate his big-heartedness, Abraham disappeared backstage at one point about halfway through the set to fetch the band’s own pallet of water bottles, which he then distributed amongst the exhausted moshers and crowd-surfers. At about this point, I went to seek refuge in the bathroom for a few minutes, as the aural assault on my eardrums had grown too much to bear.

F*cked Up’s set never once lost momentum, with each song as drivingly anthemic and joyful as the last. Abraham often entered the fray of the audience to give out hi-fives and bear hugs (including one for this reporter), all the while searching for spare red Solo cups to smash on his forehead. Impressively, the sweat allowed the cups to remained suctioned to his skull for most of the performance, giving him the illusion of having two angry red horns.

The horns didn’t fool me, though — Damian Abraham, consider yourself exposed as hardcore’s new teddy bear mascot.