Teens of multiple genders leaping into one another, swearing, sweating, singing loud (real loud) about drugs — the FIDLAR show at the Varsity Theater last night was the stuff of Joe Soucheray’s nightmares. (“And they can just hop on the Green Line now and come right over to St. Paul,” he mutters, awake in the dark at 3 a.m., peeping through his blinds.)
But Souch is an especially skittish case and FIDLAR are not to be feared. (The name is an acronym of the skater’s motto “Fuck it dog, life’s a risk.”) Many of the lyrics on the band’s new album, Too, address frontman Zac Carver’s recent recovery from a slew of addictions; many of the lyrics on the band’s self-titled 2013 debut vented Carper’s frustrations with his drug use. But especially live, their briskly tuneful tantrums make struggles with heroin and coke and whatever’s in the medicine cabinet sound nearly as wholesome as a conspiracy to TP your vice principal’s house.
FIDLAR have essentially two kinds of songs: There are songs you have to jump up and down to, and then there are songs that you can jump up and down to. Beginning with “Stoked and Broke,” the band led with the mandatory jumpers, including their masterpiece “No Waves,” in which Elvis Kuehn’s twitchy guitar riff and Carper’s manically raw rants circle one another to make an addict’s internal debate over whether to get clean sound as exhilarating as first-gen punks’ struggles against political oppression or suburban tedium.
One of their masterpieces, I should say. The other, the cathartically defensive “Cheap Beer” (“I! DRINK! CHEAP! BEER! SO! WHAT! FUCK! YOU!”), soon followed. When you sing that song at home alone you feel like you’re in a room full of people; when you sing it in a room full of people you feel like you’ve just won a battle.
FIDLAR’s first five songs came from the band’s debut, suggesting an understandable sheepishness about their new material: Too does comes up shorter on anthems than FIDLAR. But “Leave Me Alone,” about dodging an intervention, once again showcases Carper’s knack for translating a personal peeve into a more universal form of orneriness.
And you don’t even get to jump up and down to the self-consciously self-satirizing and self-pitying new single, “40oz on Repeat.” Instead that Offspring-style drum break grabs you and everyone else, lifts you abruptly, and shakes you all, like a pissed giant uprooting a tree and trying to dislodge tiny human intruders from its branches, before slamming you back down.
FIDLAR played the Entry in their last Minneapolis headlining gig, in 2013, a show Carper mentioned while singling out a possible former connect in the crowd. (“I remember you, dude. Didn’t you give us all the weed cookies?”) The band seemed comfortable in the larger room throughout their 16-song set, which they zipped through in under an hour, with no encore. There was even a little spectacle: The band was flanked on either side by R. Kelly mannequins and with creepy white heads with lightbulb eyes lurking behind them.
There were occasional bouts of stage-diving and crowd-surfing, and the band didn’t want to feel left out. Midway through the grungy workout “The Punks are Finally Taking Acid,” both guitarists entered the crowd, leaving the instruments to feed back as the rhythm section thumped along.
A couple songs later, Carper asked, “You guys want to get weird?” We apparently did, so he instructed us to sit on the floor. (Full disclosure: I squatted. But, like, as low as I could. Real low.) The band started “Cocaine” and we all leapt from the ground into the air. It was a real rush. You know, like drugs kind of. Except not.
The crowd: Enthusiastic, possibly bruised teens colliding in the pit. We older folks were scattered more toward the back.
Random notebook dump: Before FIDLAR’s set, the club played both “Sexual Healing” and “Three Times a Lady,” in case anyone wanted to get pregnant real quick, I guess.
Overheard in the crowd: “Can we go out and come back in?” — a teen, assuming I worked at the Varsity because I am old.
“Sometimes the opening band sucks.” — a teen, explaining rock shows to her less experienced friend. (Note: I didn’t catch opening band, Dune Rats. But sometimes the opening band does suck.)
Stoked and Broke
Max Can't Surf
White on White
Leave Me Alone
40 Oz On Repeat
The Punks are Finally Taking Acid
Wait for the Man