Review: Fucked Up’s Fiery Madness Served to Lukewarm Thalia Hall Crowd

Fucked Up, the Canadian punk rock band, is renowned for their electrifying live performances and the captivating stage presence of vocalist Damian Abraham. Their recent show at Thalia Hall on May 3rd was no exception, as they delivered a high-energy performance that enthralled punk rock enthusiasts. While the other band members exhibited a more subdued demeanor compared to Damian, their collective energy was still electric. Damian's wild antics, including rolling around on stage, climbing the barricade to engage with the audience, and showcasing his impressive moves in stretchy pants, added to the excitement. As a photographer, it was one of my most enjoyable sets to capture. However, I couldn't help but feel that the crowd could have reciprocated more of their energy during the performance.

Considering it was a Wednesday evening, I shouldn't have been surprised by the low turnout, but it was disheartening to witness the mostly empty venue with the closed-off balcony. Throughout the three sets, the audience at this punk show remained largely static, with only a few individuals at the front displaying any enthusiasm. Many concertgoers were engrossed in their phones, not only during the opening acts but even during Fucked Up's performance. While it's not my usual practice to critique the audience, as my focus is on reviewing the performance itself, I found the overall energy level disappointingly low. Attending a punk show on a Wednesday night should be an opportunity to let loose and have fun, especially since those who showed up had already taken the first step. Even if you're tired for work the next day, it's worth making the most of the experience.

Joining Fucked Up on their U.S. leg of the One Day tour were Philadelphia-based punk band Dark Thoughts and Richmond, VA fuzz band Gnawing. Unfortunately, I arrived at Thalia Hall too late to catch Gnawing live, though I have since listened to their debut album, You Freak Me Out, which features tracks like "Summer Heat" and "So Glad," paying homage to bands like Pavement and Dinosaur Jr.. It was regrettable to have missed their set. As for Dark Thoughts, they were near the end of their performance when I arrived. While their sound was reminiscent of a blend between Ramones and Mean Jeans, their stage presence lacked the desired energy. Nevertheless, I commend them for delivering an energetic show to a less-than-packed venue, and I hope to see them perform again on a weekend when more people are inclined to come out and unleash their energy.

Fucked Up took the stage around 10:15, and my initial impression was that they didn't quite match the visual expectation set by their music. It's not to say that they weren't fashionable or cool, but rather a seemingly mismatched group of Canadians who appeared like individuals I'd chat with at a coffee shop about local DIY shows, our pet cats, or homemade sourdough bread.

Fucked Up, formed in 2001 in Toronto, Ontario, is a Canadian punk rock band celebrated for their intense and innovative approach to hardcore music. The band's original lineup included Damian Abraham (vocals), Mike Haliechuk (guitar), Josh Zucker (guitar), Ben Cook (guitar), Jonah Falco (drums), and Sandy Miranda (bass). However, their current lead guitarist is Mike Haliechuk, and for their 2023 tour, they added a third guitarist, Dorothea Paas.

Fucked Up's early releases, such as the EP No Pasaran and their debut album Hidden World in 2006, provided a glimpse into their fierce sound, which skillfully blended elements of punk, hardcore, and post-hardcore. However, it was with the release of their second studio album, The Chemistry of Common Life, in 2008 that Fucked Up truly made a significant impact on the music scene. The album garnered widespread critical acclaim and even earned them the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, awarded to the best Canadian album of the year. The Chemistry of Common Life showcased their fearless experimentation with different musical styles and featured longer, more intricate compositions, further solidifying their reputation as an innovative punk band.

Fucked Up's artistic evolution continued with the release of subsequent critically acclaimed albums. David Comes to Life in 2011, Glass Boys in 2014, and Dose Your Dreams in 2018 all demonstrated the band's ability to incorporate elements of indie rock, shoegaze, and even pop into their signature sound. Despite these stylistic expansions, they managed to maintain their raw energy and intensity, captivating audiences with their dynamic performances. Their latest album, One Day, which also served as the namesake for their tour, is a compact yet powerful collection of songs that were meticulously crafted within a 24-hour recording window. The album's lyrics delve into themes such as the power of love, generational cycles of toxic masculinity, and our individual roles in shaping history.

At the Thalia Hall show on Wednesday night, Fucked Up treated the audience to a diverse setlist encompassing songs from their previous albums as well as several tracks from One Day.They kicked off with "Found" and proceeded to deliver electrifying performances of "I Think I Might Be Weird," "Queen of Hearts," "Huge New Her," "Roar," "Broken Little Boys," "Police," "Nothing's Immortal," "Lords of Kensington," "I Don't Wanna Live in This World Anymore," "Normal People," "One Day," "Glass Boys," "Joy Stops Time," and concluded the main set with "Dose Your Dreams" as the encore. A standout moment of the show was when Abraham introduced the song "Police" and addressed the injustices endured by marginalized communities, the LGBTQ+ community, and individuals whose reproductive rights have been subject to restrictive legislation. His words, delivered as a "scared Canadian" at Thalia Hall, were thoughtful and eloquent, setting the stage for the punk-as-fuck, anti-police anthem that followed.

The impact of Fucked Up's contributions to punk rock has not gone unnoticed. They have received numerous accolades, including multiple Juno Awards, which are Canada's equivalent of the Grammy Awards. Their influential sound and innovative approach to the punk genre have garnered praise from critics and fans alike. Despite their success, Fucked Up remains true to their DIY punk ethos, often choosing to release their music through independent labels and maintaining an independent spirit. Their unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of the genre has solidified their status as one of the most influential and groundbreaking punk rock bands of the 21st century, inspiring a new generation of punk musicians to challenge conventions and carve their own paths. It was an absolute pleasure to see them at Thalia Hall and I hope when they make it back to Chicago that they play to a sold-out audience who meet them with unbridled enthusiasm.

All photos by Shaela Johnston

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Shaela Johnston

Shaela is a West-Coast born freelance photographer and writer, relatively new to Chicago as of 2021. Specializing in live music photography, Shaela can be found attending concerts several times a week when she isn't traveling or working on her Bachelor's degree. In her free time she listens to metal, hardcore, hip-hop, and likes to chill at home with her hairless cat named Soup and wife Courtney.