Live: Fucked Up, JEFF The Brotherhood, And Iceage Sweat It Out

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Fucked Up w/JEFF the Brotherhood, Iceage
285 Kent Ave
Saturday, June 25

Better than: Seeing Fucked Up at, say, Terminal 5.

After playing the middle slot between two legends of indie in a cavernous Manhattan concert hall this past Thursday, Fucked Up shared Saturday night's bill at the Williamsburg sauna 285 Kent with a couple of ambassadors from punk's next generation. And while the Toronto sextet's name could only be officially added to the bill in the wee hours of Friday morning, the hype surrounding the bill's two younger bands is such that they might have still sold it out on their own.

First up was Iceage, the dark quartet of teenaged Danes who've come to speak for Copenhagen's burgeoning punk scene on the strength of their harbinging debut New Brigade. Iceage's avowed love for hard and heavy music of all eras and creeds came through in their blitzkrieg set most clearly (their references span from late-'70s anti-racist punks Crisis to contemporary, apparently Nazi-leaning black metallers Absurd), while the melodies critics keep highlighting—typically credited, in interviews, to Bruce Springsteen—largely fell by the wayside in favor of intensity. The first half of their brief set inspired little more than stationary headbangs and the odd fistpump, but frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt soon fixed that by doffing his guitar to whip the crowd into a frenzy—mostly with a collapsible mic stand.

"You're nothing," he deadpanned repeatedly to a crowd member who was, out of either respect or retaliation, then in the process of moving the blood from Rønnenfelt's lip to the rest of his face (via fist transfusion). "Nothing" wound up just about making the set.

Next was JEFF the Brotherhood, a pair of spry young Tennesseans. Though Jake Orrall (guitar, vocals) and brother-drummer Jammin have been making music as JEFF since junior high circa 2001, they've been hitting their stride this year with a live LP on Jack White's Third Man label, their latest studio album (We Are the Champions), and a forever-practiced and -improving live show (Damian "Pink Eyes" Abraham later took a moment from Fucked Up's set to remark upon the strides the Orralls have made since he first saw them five months ago). And while Champions and 2009's Heavy Days benefit from an expanding arsenal that includes synths, vocal harmonies, dueling solos and sitar, JEFF's lethal mix of Ramones riffs and Skynyrd solos was played on nothing more than a barebones kit and a three-stringed guitar. Jake arpeggiated briefly for the psychedelic breather "Diamond Way," but other than that, the two kept it relentless.

Of course, where JEFF hail from musically is as far removed from NYC as it is by interstate. Jake repped a Hooters tee notable for bearing the name of Murfreesboro, the podunk college town that has marked the weird center of Middle Tennessee's surprisingly nebulous indie rock universe since the early '90s. But considering he and Jamin play here more often than some locals do, it's little surprise that they're growing comfortable fast. At a particularly clammy juncture, Jake lit up: "Smells like Nashville in here!"

Given Iceage's deference to the Boss, and JEFF's affinity for stadium-sized shredding, Fucked Up probably weren't the only band in the room ever to fancy the idea of playing an arena—but given this year's tremendous rock opera David Comes to Life (and its equally great and ambitious sister compilation of imaginary bands, David's Town), they remain the only ones to deserve it. Amidst a tri-guitar wall of sound, Abraham's coarsening bark, and Jonah Falco's cyclonic drums, the deafening mass that resulted was a reminder that this band could benefit from stretching out in a venue like... well, Terminal 5. Even though the acoustics there can be crap in their own way, I'm sure it was at least possible to make out bassist Sandy Miranda's lovely backing vocals on Thursday night.

But at the same time, while Fucked Up can fill the stage just as ably as their Canadian brethren in outsized groups like Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, they also worked well given 285's cluttered sound and cramped space. Guitarists Mike Haliechuk, Josh Zucker and Ben Cook sweated generously on the crowd (who had plenty of their own to go 'round by Iceage's third song), while Abraham cavorted his way through, offering the microphone to any nearby fan to scream a line (always obliged), lifting the lucky few into WWE strangleholds, and cementing his place as the people's champ by distributing Poland Spring to the audience all night. Above all else, the way in which the music blurred into one great visceral surge at such close range (and in such malarial heat) allowed the performance to achieve a kind of perfection that a more professional setup would've parsed and diminished. The gig at 285 Kent wasn't just a Comes to Life victory lap, but the way this band is meant to be seen.

Critical bias: My status as punk rock rookie bitch was evidenced not only by my left-of-the-pit vantage point, but also by the fact that I may very well have grooved a bit more to the Marvin and Stevie on the PA in between sets than to what was being played during them.

Overheard: "The best part about these things is that they aren't gay." (Guess dude didn't get the memo.)

Random notebook dump: In an attempt to later reconstruct JEFF's setlist, I jotted down the riffs and what few words I could make out as best I could for later verification: "dadadaDUH, dadadaDUH...nuhnuhnuhhh (the bassy feedback one)...'U Got the Look!'"

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Iceage setlist
NY Disko
Broken Bone
Count Me In
NY SG
White Rune
White Sails
You're Nothing
New Brigade
You're Blessed

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JEFF the Brotherhood setlist
Shredder
Bone Jam
The Tropics
Dreamscape
Ripper
Heavy Days
Diamond Way
U Got the Look
Noo Sixties

Fucked Up setlist
The piece of paper I swiped from Miranda's place onstage after they finished wound up being a lyric sheet for "Queen of Hearts." The set list was similar to this one, in any case.


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4 comments
Charles Appelbaum
Charles Appelbaum

I still laugh my head off when Josh Zucker claims he was a "street kid". His rich daddy was paying his rent in Parkdale and he was boasting his welfare payments were his party money. This arrogant wannabe communist fool is such a bullshitter and never had to worry about a hungry day in his life!

Erik And Erik
Erik And Erik

Fucked Up opened with "Queen of Hearts" and also played "The Other Shoe" "Baiting the Public" "I Hate Summer" "Police" "Black Albino Bones" "Son the Father" "David Comes to Life" and I think "Running on Nothing" and maybe others…

Eric Phipps
Eric Phipps

This show was ridiculously good and ridiculously hot.  People who took off their shirts due to the heat who then tried to crowd surf soon found out they we couldn't hold their sweat slicked bodies aloft for long.

Iceage was good once again.  The set was energetic and once the mosh pit dispelled most of the press corps, highly interactive (as evidenced by the mic stand altercations).  Bassist for The Men, Chris Hansell made an appearance at the end literally bowling people over.

JEFF was amazing and I have to agree with Damian.  They've made great strides in their live show.  The crew from DBA made it out for this set and it was fun to see them wild out instead of serve drinks, to see them take part in a scene they love as something other than facilitators to our entertainment.

Fucked Up was very good.  Second best show I've seen from them (following an amazing NYU show in Feb).  It was so hot and horrible that it looks like they may have cut the set short?  Damian had to flee the heat for a bit where he graciously posed for photos with people near the front door for a bit before making his way back to the stage.

I'll tell you this though, I'll probably not go to 285 Kent until September.  It was just too uncomfortable.  There was a window unit gamely set to 60 degrees but it didn't do much for anyone.  There was a more proper cooling unit near the door, but the giant cloth drop which separates the arcade section from the bar (and thus the show) was blocking the air circulation.

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