Musical Musings: F---ed Up and Frightened Rabbit bring me to Skully's twice in a week

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Seems like most of the touring shows that capture my attention these days are BenCo shows at Skully's. Unlike some haters, I actually quite like seeing shows there, but going there so often is making me miss Little Brother's a little bit. That didn't stop me from showing up twice this week for a couple very different performances.

Monday, F---ed Up was in town. Given that they seem to have become the flavor of the month with their NME cover and Vice love and Pitchfork "Best New Music" and what have you, I figured the show would be packed with folks like me who never went to saw the band when they were merely underground heroes and not kings of all media. As it turned out the place was pretty empty for such a marquee show; there were maybe about 100 people there.

My buddy Bret booked F---ed Up's last show in Columbus at Bernie's in 2004, which drew at least three times as many folks as Monday's go-round. Apparently whatever boost the band got from all the recent press was more than counteracted by the fact that hardcore fans don't like to go to Skully's and/or they don't like to pay $12 at the door. Or maybe they just don't appreciate their heroes playing with shitgaze slackers like Psychedelic Horseshit, who clearly had their own set of fans at Skully's distinct from the F---ed Up fans. I gotta admit, I go so hot and cold for Horseshit's brittle, slapdash indie rock depending on the context. That glorious night at SXSW I totally got it, but opening for F---ed Up it didn't resonate in the slightest. I assume the contrast would have been even more bizarre had I gotten there in time for local hardcore acts Reflect and Vile Gash.

Anyway, once F---ed Up took the stage, things got a lot more intense real fast. Whether playing tracks from their elaborate new LP The Chemistry of Common Life or trotting out lots of old stuff, the band was at full throttle from start to finish. They didn't seem to mind that the room wasn't packed, they just did their thing like they've been doing for seven years now. It wasn't like most hardcore shows I've seen, particularly due to the three-guitar attack F---ed Up is currently wielding. In addition to low-end chug, there's a lot of single-note Pixies-style lead guitar action, a combination that reminds me of Trail of Dead's fabulous swan song, Source Tags and Codes. (Wait, Trail of Dead had other albums after that? Guess I repressed those memories...).

The crowd, small though it was, reciprocated with a circle pit and stage diving, but it definitely wasn't the riot I had been hoping to witness. We who remained on the fringes were able to stay out of the fray in a way we wouldn't have been able to pull off had the room been fuller, which ultimately created a gaping hole between the band and the audience. Pink Eyes, F---ed Up's personable, oversized frontman, bore the brunt of this disconnection. No one could accuse him of mailing this performance in, but he wasn't the whirlwind force I suspect he might be on some nights. It should be noted that the most electrifying moment of the night was when Pink Eyes invited Columbus hardcore dude Tall Rob to stand in for him for a song near the end of the set.

So it wasn't the F---ed Up show I was hoping for, but it had its moments nonetheless. A hardcore show is such a communal experience, and this one was lacking the proper congregation. But the band's bravura run through an hour of epic punk bangers has me hoping for another go-round with them in the future.

Wednesday, I found myself back at Skully's to see Frightened Rabbit, the band I gushed so much about earlier that day in this blog. Although I felt the band was somewhat slighted to be opening for Spinto Band on this night, I was pleased that they were opening because it meant I'd be getting my FR fix that much sooner.

But first I got my first encounter with the wonderful Tin Armor, a local indie rock group that has played tons of house shows but hasn't much ventured out into the club scene. (That hasn't kept them from venturing out of town — they've toured the country several times since forming two years ago.) I guess these guys opened the Born Ruffians show a few weeks back, and it's a good match; Tin Armor lives in that same kind of nervous, sharply rhythmic but always melodic niche that Born Ruffians does so well. I'll definitely be seeing them again.

Then it was time for the Scottish lads I'd been cursing myself for missing last time they were here. I honestly hadn't expected such a big crowd on this night — there may have been more people there than there were at Monday's higher-profile F---ed Up show — and it seemed the band was also surprised (and quite pleased, of course) at such a turnout. As such, Frightened Rabbit had a connection with the audience that was lacking at Monday's show. They played through most of the best selections from their fantastic The Midnight Organ Fight plus one older song. The melancholy, gruff pop tunes translated well to the stage. Though their renditions weren't as perfectly performed as the studio versions, it didn't matter. It was just the sort of set you hope a great young band will deliver.

Can't say I stuck around for Spinto Band — sorry, Duffy — but I was more than satisfied with the first two bands of the night.