Fucked Up came down to NYC to play the Culture Shock festival at SUNY Purchase this Saturday, so I rented a car, grabbed Dean Bein, and drove on up. Purchase is about 25 minutes north of the city, right on the border with Connecticut.
This was a really weird event. Turns out it was restricted to SUNY students. Security was over the top. Huge, huge luxurious campus in really wealthy area, and state troopers with flashing lights parked at the entrance where you drive in. Everyone was pulled over by troopers, and drive and all passengers had to show IDs. Since we weren’t students or visiting one, they wanted to turn us away, but I said I was acqainted with one of the bands… “Who…” “Umm, well, they’re actually called Fucked Up.” Guy looks pissed for a sec then says, “Man, that’s fucked up!” Very funny. Takes my ID and Dean’s and fortunately I had an old biz card, had me pull over to the right for like 10 minutes, made various phone calls, and then admitted us.
So we drive through this huge campus and the “festival” is just at end of parking lot…. pretty big stage, maybe, what, 300-400 people, max? All college students, SUPER hippie jamband bummer vibe, frisbees, some SERIOUS hackysack, tons of vegan food, Mr. Easy (some horrible pop/dub/reggae vibe) onstage, people dancing solo under the trees, at least it was sunny. Huge hookah at one corner and kids were smoking apple-scented tobacco. FU were there hanging out in their van, like, “how the fuck did we end up driving down from Toronto for this shit!?!”
Police and campus security are EVERYWHERE… it was such a joke, these lame-ass unthreatening college kids (I found out that Purchase is SUNY’s art/creative campus, never realized that), not a hint or threat of trouble, but blue wooden police sawhorse barricades all around the stage. Saw my friend Babyleg with Gang Gang Dance, who were going on after Mr. Easy at 7 PM, then FU at 8 PM…
Only alcohol was $2 buds in a massive tent and you had to consume it in the tent… more ID checking, more state troopers in crisp Mountie hats, buy ticket, get beer, drink it next to these bozo shirtless frat guys with awful tank-top sunburns.
So far so good, I grab a beer, sun’s just gone down, beautiful evening, hear the mighty triple guitar roar, come back to the front, the audience has now been infiltrated with some FU fans, the vibe at least in front has definitely improved, and the pit gets going – and I mean SERIOUSLY going, before the band has played a note. Just whirling, mid-’90s East Coast hardcore dancing, you know, like the “Battling with invisible ninjas” style?
So the band launches into “Baiting The Public,” and it’s total mayhem. Not quite the contained little-kid style circle-jerk style I saw when the band played outside in Austin las month, a bit more chaotic than that, bunch of the kids are def. fucked up or stoned or just high on a piece of actual excitement at this shitty two-bit “festival”. Damian is shirtless of course, pants falling down, cops are on stage and in front of the stage, and Damian wants to interact with the crowd, so he comes down for the second song which is, of course, “Police”, and the cops do NOT want the barrier breached. It was those blue wooden sawhorses, like big deal, and the pit, while totally wild, is not out of control and doesn’t contain that many people either.
So Damian knocks down the wooden barricades so that he’s not separated from the audience, and the band plays “Manqueller Man.” I notice suddenly that the sound is thinner, not as mighty, the guitars esp, even though it still looks and sounds amazing… and then I realize the PA’s been turned off, and we’re only hearing live sound from the amp. Seconds later all power is cut, Damain shrugs and smiles to the audience, what can we do? and they’re walking offstage… crowd is chanting “BULL-SHIT BULL SHIT BULL SHIT” over and over, I go to the side of the stage and find out that the cops demanded that the sound guy cut the PA and then pulled the plug.
Just like Negative FX opening for Burma’s last show… aside from the weird lame environment. Total deja vu, late ’70s early ’80s hardcore versus the authorities. “This fucking city’s… run by pigs… they take the rights away… from all the kids…. we’re just fighting, fighting a war, we can’t win, NO WAY.” Except NFX would probably have been happy if there’d actually been chance of people getting hurt, which there definitely was not in this case.
So I head to the bathroom, I see Damian is talking to a state police officer, I hear him say, “I don’t mean to disrespect your job sir,” being all reasonable and Canadian as he is in real life… when I get back to the bathroom, the band is packing up. Damian tells me the guy is a sergeant in the state police, and told the band to get off the campus immediately or they would be arrested for incitement to riot. According to the cops, the other big mistake on Damian’s part was to turn over those wooden sawhorses… he told the police that he thought they were there to protect *him* from the audience, not the other way around, so that it would be OK to remove them. The cop replied (and I am not making this up) that when Damian tipped them over, “you could have squished some kids to death” – that’s the actual phrase he used.
Paradoxically, the police were simultaneously blaming the band for inciting the kids to riot and for attempting to injure them… are the authorities scared of the kids or overprotective of them? Typical conflicted societal attitude toward youth these days.
So at 9:30 PM the band were hastily packing up, they were all heading straight back to TO (maybe overnighting in Albany maybe not)… I told Mike I was sorry this had happened in our state and that they had driven all the way down from Toronto for this. So I ended up driving with friends back down to the city, and that was it… Fucking peculiar all the way through…
other bands on the Culture Shock festival included Cassidy, Jadakiss, Deerhoof, JD from Le Tigre and others of greater or lesser stature