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In concert: [Expletive] Up at Rock & Roll Hotel

effed upDamian Abraham and one of his fans sharing a moment at Rock & Roll Hotel. (All photos by Josh Sisk)

By David Malitz

Damian Abraham came to the Rock & Roll Hotel Thursday night to make amends. The hefty, hirsute and exceedingly lovable frontman for Toronto hardcore sextet [Expletive] Up took the stage and immediately apologized for the band’s previous show at the venue. It was one of their five worst ever, he claimed. Not only would this show be better, but Abraham said he would give every member of the audience a back rub.

While his masseuse skills may not have been put to the test, Abraham spent the vast majority of the band’s whiplash hour-long set among the fans - hugging, chatting with, screaming along with and occasionally giving one a piggyback ride or putting one in a reverse-piledriver hold. Meanwhile his bandmates churned out a enormously loud, symphonic and melodic brand of hardcore that would have been show-stealing if it weren’t for the singer’s oversize personality.

(More can't-miss pictures after the jump.)

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Thursday’s show exemplified why [Expletive] Up has managed to find some crossover success outside of the normally self-contained hardcore scene. The band doesn’t adhere to the notoriously rigid set of rules that govern the genre, both musically and socially. Abraham’s full-throated roar fits the usual bill, even if his bellows are more booming than the rest. Just as essential to the band’s sound is its triple-guitar attack, which can first seem a bit excessive - three guitarists, often playing basically the same thing? - but reveals itself to be crucial. The added layers help give songs both a wall-of-sound and slight psychedelic sheen. They chug along for five and six minutes but never lose that speeding freight train impact.

And Abraham is just too unique, funny and personable - not words you’d often associate with hardcore. “This song is about my baby boy. He’s so beautiful,” he said before one song and then shouted the first line which went something like, “AHHHHHHHHHHHHGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!” At one point he made his way to the bar mid-song and had a casual conversation with a fan before getting a drink. He made his way back to the same spot a couple songs later, this time to pour hot candle wax on his bare back, smiling the whole time.

It’s too bad happy hardcore is already the name for an electronic music genre. It would be a much better descriptor for [Expletive] Up.

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By David Malitz  |  September 10, 2010; 1:38 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: [Expletive] Up  
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