FIDLAR at Emo’s, Austin, TX 10/22/2018

My first experience with FIDLAR was a fabulous trainwreck.  The punk rock fiancée had come across these guys and was very enthusiastic about their debut album.  She found a gig that these guys had during SXSW at the Historic Scoot Inn in Austin.  If you’ve never been to this venue, it’s a two-headed beast.  They have a nice outdoor stage surrounded by old oaks trees.  It’s a lovely spot for a show.  Then, there is the hole of an inside stage.  This is a dingy and cramped space on the best of days.  We managed to make our way into the venue as FIDLAR was already in the middle of their set on this inside stage.  By the time we worked our way over to the entrance, the room was at capacity with a “one out-one in” policy in effect.  We could hear the destruction going on inside and randomly some sweaty and pummeled punk youth would come staggering out of the door.  One we finally made it just inside the door we were sucked into downright punk anarchy.  The place was an absolutely sweat-house.  Kids were being hoisted in the air.  Kids were jumping on and off stage.  Kids were slamming everything and everyone in sight.  Sweat was pouring out of the walls.  The band, meanwhile, was crammed into the corner stage and was just pounding out their caustic punk tales of degradation while the chaos of the room just swirled around them.  It was truly one of the most unhinged moments I’ve been a part of over the course of many years of going to shows.  And it was fucking glorious.

The first FIDLAR album is a downright near perfect platter of punk.  It’s a bunch of fuckups celebrating being complete wastoids.  Beer, cheap pills, cocaine, skating, surfing, homelessness, jail time and just being an all-around directionless asshole hanging out with your shitty friends.  It’s all here is stark depiction.  It’s one of those albums that just feels wrong and right at the same time.  Shit, it makes you want to quit your job, cash in your 401k and go on a world-is-going-to-shit-fuck-it bender.  We were able to see these guys once more in a dingy little club here in Austin while they were still touring off of this debut album and it really felt as though they had tapped into something amazing…if they could only manage to not completely burn out in the process.

Now this is going to sound really shitty, but fuck it.  Sometimes a band getting cleaned up is the worst possible thing that can happen for the quality of the music they produce.  Call it the Mustaine Principle.  Now, it’s great personally that the dudes in FIDLAR are getting cleaned up.  I’m glad they aren’t going to die of an overdose.  But, damn, album number two just completely lacked the edge and danger of the debut.  It sounded more like a commercial pop-punk band trying to follow in the footsteps of a Blink 182 or Green Day than a genuine punk band coming up from the L.A. gutters.  And it was sad.  And this leads us into last night’s show.

FIDLAR has a new album in the can and it is supposed to come out right after the first of the upcoming new year.  They have dropped a couple of singles.  And, man, are they shitty.  It’s even more polished and more poppy sounding than the stuff on the second album and if they are any indication as to the remainder of the songs on the new album, it doesn’t bode well.  However, the punk rock fiancée and I were such big fans of the first album and have always had a rowdy good time at their shows, we decided to go check out how their live show is at this point and time.

So, the older songs:  perfect.  Just great and the band still brings the same amount of energy that was present in days past.  The new songs:  not so great.  Some just come across as sad emo pop punk anthems.  Some, however, did come across a little better live than the recorded versions did.  The majority of the crowd at the show was definitely there for the new material.  It feels like this new material is definitely aimed for the late teen and early 20s crowd (i.e. I felt old as fuck at this show).  The band would launch into an older song and the reaction was OK.  The band would launch into a newer song and the place just exploded with hipster 20-somethings just bouncing up and down.  It was weird.  And it just made me long for that sweaty hot box back during SXSW 6-7 years ago.  Punk should be dangerous.  This felt sanitized.  I guess that’s the price of progress and sobriety.

White On White

Cheap Beer

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