Lawrence’s typical eclectic crowd was out in full force on Monday night at the hot, cramped Jackpot Saloon for the KJHK moving celebration. The lineup was nearly as diverse save for heavily leanings of rock/Punk/Hardcore of the acts performing.
Early on it was a pretty relaxed atmosphere. Several punks stirred anxiously waiting for local punk favorites the Dark Ages to take the stage. Headliner Fucked Up was relaxing at the bar watching the Vancouver Canucks take on the Chicago BlackHawks in some NHL play off Hockey. Thus far, if no one had known the wiser seemed like a pretty calm evening at any typical bar. Of course the wiser in the crowd knew that this was the quiet before the storm.
The more things change the more they stay the same with punk. Black T-shirts, studs, leather or jean jackets adorned with patches rule the day. By the time the Dark Ages went on a bit after what was becoming a late Monday night I began to wonder if the built up tension from the wait would immediately set the crowd off into a frenzy. As soon as the band took the stage and played their first chord I had pretty much hit the nail on the head. Less than a minute in to their set some one had already stage dived into a crowd of unsuspecting bystanders. Quickly making way for the punk dance/march/stomp that ensued by the Dark Ages fans a frantic harried pit was underway as the quick tempo lead them into it.
The Dark Ages took me back to one of the first punk shows I ever attended coincidentally just a block or two down from the Jackpot at the BottleNeck. Their lead singer reminded me of Henry Rollins in the Liar video. Flicking water in the faces of those at the front screaming in their faces as they yelled into the microphone with him. This was good old no-holds-barred be ready to get in the pit and mess stuff up fun.
The Dark Ages set was over seemingly as quickly as it began. They have a pretty loyal following as the crowd thinned out noticeably once they left the stage.
Next up was another local favorite and a group that has been receiving quite a bit of buzz in the area, The Roof Top Vigilantes. I have heard lots of great things about the Vigilantes and they have even garnered several prominent music blogs’ attention. I hadn’t realized that they were the hipsters I had rolled my eyes at and quietly judged when I saw them walk into the bar. Thankfully they would make me regret writing them off from their initial look.
Breaking into a fast pace at times dual singing and even guitar switching between bass and lead guitar, their sound was augmented by an organ and was very catchy. That said the predominantly punk-heavy crowd seemed less than impressed. The floor didn’t feel quite as full as it did for the Dark Ages nor was it anywhere near as energetic as most stood around arms crossed. That isn’t to say the Vigilantes were putting on any less of a show, quite the opposite. They were playing their hearts out with an infectious youthful energy. Many see the Vigilantes being bigger than Lawrence and after having a chance to catch their live show I can see why. I feel nearly ashamed for having ignored the buzz about them this far but will not be doing so again.
Being well into midnight it was now time for the headliner Toronto’s Fucked Up to take the stage. I had caught a short 5 song set of the band at SXSW and I was fully looking forward to a full set this evening. The band’s live shows have become legendary for the energy and musicianship the band always brings to the stage. The passion that Fucked Up has for music is obvious. Prior to the show I spotted a van with Ontario plates outside of the venue. Having arrived a little early I found bass player Sandy Miranda setting up the merch booth. When she broke away for a moment I asked if they had drove down themselves. I was nearly laughed at as she mentioned that they don’t have a crew. For being a band that has built the following that they have and even some of the attention that they have garnered from the likes of hipster bible Pitchfork and the odd recommendation from Fox News, it was refreshing to see such a DIY spirit that the entire band seemed to have.
Fucked Up is band that walks a delicate line. With three guitars in the mix it would be easy in a live environment for their delicately balanced and very melodic sounds to get crunched into an unintelligible wall of noise. Fortunately, the musicians are so finely honed that they effortlessly pull the sound off live. Opening their set with Born Again of their critically acclaimed and a personal favorite of mine “Chemistry of Common Life,” the floor would quickly fill up and another hardcore pit would quickly erupt. The energy would continue on for the course of their hour and a half 14 song set. By the mid part of the set front man Damian Abraham had grown tired of being on stage and decided to take a tour of the venue. Wandering out into the crowd, mic in hand, he would venture to the fans too afraid to enter the fray of the pit.
Returning to the stage he ended up pulling down a ceiling tile and busting it in two with his head. He would continue picking up the pieces of it breaking them down and the fans in the front were catching any debris and doing the same. All this was taking place while not a single beat was missed.
Abraham’s return to the stage would be short lived. He would jump off the stage catching a stage diver mid dive. He carried him back to the middle part of the bar where he stopped to get a glass of water well into another track from Chemistry Crooked Neck. He also spotted the photo booth and decided to have some pictures taken with some fans. All the while the pit was keeping the same intensity.
The show was truly an energetic fun sight to behold. The band and the crowd both seemed to be having a fun time. By the time the band reached their final encore the entire room, myself included, wanted more but were spent from the nonstop frenzied kinetic energy of the previous hour and 25 minutes. Closing out with a cover of the Sex Pistols “Bodies” they finished the night by claiming they were a pro-choice band as some have construed the lyrics to the song as a pro-life statement. With that they began to load out as Abraham jumped off stage one last time and began hugging the fans that had spent all their energy in the pit. Sending the rest of the crowd into an early Tuesday morning thoroughly satisfied and eager for the next time Fucked up stops in town.
I give the whole show 5 “damaged and destroyed ceiling tiles” out of 5
By John Coovert