Show Review: Descendents and Fucked Up at NXNE 2011

words by Garrett Lyons | photos by Leigh Metzler | Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Toronto’s hometown hardcore band Fucked Up took the stage on Thursday night, June 16th, at Yonge-Dundas Square as a part of a dedicated punk/hardcore night at NXNE’s largest venue. The 30-minute set took a heavy turn through the band’s recently released David Comes to Life in front of a rabid fan base, complete with the requisite mosh pit and those who travelled a ridiculously long way to see the concert, with a small but vocal contingent of Icelandic fans in the crowd.

From the moment lead singer Damian Abraham took the stage he was nowhere near it, instead performing almost the entire set from the audience or from the railing in front of the stage. Abraham whipped the crowd into a frenzy, culminating in an awesome performance of “The Other Shoe.” At some point, Abraham ended up with the microphone cord wrapped completely around his head and continued performing.

Although the set was far from musical — since being in the crowd is not conducive to the compelling vocals Abraham is capable of — it provided a brilliant spark of energy that lasted for the rest of the evening. Although the outdoor set limited some of the classic hardcore antics that Fucked Up are capable of, the whole set was well-performed. Fucked Up evoke the days of punk where if the lead singer wasn’t bleeding, then it wasn’t a good show.

Thursday night’s headliner at Yonge-Dundas Square was the seminal SoCal punk band Descendents. There are no words to describe the impact of the band on modern punk music, with every element of pop-punk coming out of their playbook.

The set started at a torrid pace, with classics like “Pervert” and “Silly Girl” marking the early set. During the middle of “Nothing With You” it seemed as if lead singer Milo Aukerman’s voice was about to give out. Then a moment of magic that only occurs at punk shows happened: someone in the crowd threw a water bottle onto the stage and hit Milo square in his trademark glasses. Instead of losing his calm, Milo finished the song and came on stronger for the remainder of the set, producing vocals reminiscent of the band’s heyday in the 1980s.

The 23-song set took a tour through the entirety of the Descendents’ catalog, including the first live performance of “Lucky,” a track the band contributed to the Godmoney movie soundtrack. “Lucky” was the emotional high point, with every bit of Milo’s soul coming through the vocals and every ounce of energy the band could muster coming into the song.

The oddest and most endearing moment of the show came when Milo had his two children onstage reading the opening of “All-O-Gistics.” It was reminiscent of The Clash’s child version of “Career Opportunities,” in which the same song with different vocals lead to an entirely new experience of the song.

The rest of the set was filled with newer and older classics, marked with an incredible performance of “Suburban Home” in which the band was firing on all cylinders. The night ended with a two-song encore, consisting of “Coolidge” and the classic “Bikeage.”

Even though the band has a few more grey hairs than in the past, the Descendents did far more than go through the motions. They injected life and passion into the music, and it sounded as fresh as it did when it was first recorded. It was a mind-blowing set from a classic band, and anyone who wasn’t a punk fan entering the square left — at the very least — a fan of Descendents.

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