Culture & Conversation

Stephen Harper’s Other Nightmare

SINGLED OUT by Stephen Harper as justification for slashing arts funding, the Toronto punk band Fucked Up has taken the absurdly negative press coming from official government channels and deployed it to their favour. Their show last Saturday at Sala Rossa was a wildly exuberant affair. The divide between the stage and crowd was effectively made porous: wave after wave of crowd surfers and stage divers crashed in a mess of tangled limbs, while the band, thriving in the systematic chaos, played, if possible, even more frenetically. A tremendous slab of meat, Pink Eyes himself leapt off the stage, running through the crowd like a feverish lunatic, even once picking up a member of the audience and hauling him onto his broad, naked, sweaty shoulders.

At the end, the almost comically enormous front man stood onstage exhausted, surveying the mayhem erupting below. The sweat was dripping from his bald head onto his voluminous, hairy chest while his belly hung low over his barely clothed lower body. See, although Pink Eyes had started off the concert ostensibly fully clothed, including a pair of incredible purple patterned pants, the “fucking long set” had taken its toll.

It was not that the set was overly long by any means. From the time Pink Eyes first burst onstage to his last note, a solo “encore” that basically summed up the maxim of punk – and Fucked Up – he performed for just over an hour. But it was an hour of intense physical strain, the kind that would have taken a toll on lesser bands, bands that had not spent the better part of the last decade scurrying from one punk rock gutter to another.

And so, by the end of the set, Pink Eyes stood in front of a packed Sala Rossa in his boxers.

It was, to put it succinctly, a glorious mess. It may be amongst the last glorious messes, at least on any meaningful scale. If Harper’s plans go ahead as he has hinted, Fucked Up and a myriad of other artists many never be able to leave their basements, dive bars, or friends’ couches. While punk, especially Fucked Up‘s brand of Canadian hardcore, may never receive mainstream recognition as “art,” it is still of tantamount important to realize that, at least to the people crammed into Sala Rossa, the concert, the band, the performance, was as meaningful an event as any other.

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