If you’ve been a record store regular for years, you can’t avoid that the way you come at music these days—well, it’s different than it used to be. You may still be one of those who trek out to buy, with money, the hard copy (be that on disk or, dare we say, vinyl), but the process of shilling songs as a whole has been revolutionized, to generally mixed reactions.
One thing you certainly don’t see anymore is a massive lineup of fans, eager to snag a brand-new release the day it hits the shelves. Midnight launches especially don’t get set up for anything outside of games like Call of Duty. This is why local, heavy-sound honour students Fucked Up became the exception to the new rule.
Late Monday night, the corner of Queen and Shaw started to swell with a gathering crowd, to the confusion of onlookers who didn’t know a band could even be called Fucked Up. In that crowd were folks anticipating the new Fucked Up release, David Comes to Life, a conceptual rock opera about love in the era of Reaganomics and Thatcherism.
Or they were anticipating free beer, which was also advertised.
The album release came via a pop-up record shop, located within the Clint Roenisch Gallery, and the line to get in hugged the walls of retail fronts and turned the corner onto Shaw. When the midnight hour came, the line moved quickly—probably too quickly for the Clint Roenisch to handle. Before you could say “Black Albino Bones” the gallery was packed with fans and beer moochers. People tried to shuffle their way around the room. To the right was the merchant table with the new album, 7” treats, and special-occasion signed light bulbs. In the back was the free beer, and all around was decor related to the band and the new album. Everything, unbeknownst to all, was live streaming to Fucked Up’s website. And in the air? Hot breath, and maybe sour cream and onion chips wasn’t the greatest idea for a free snack, given the circumstances.
One shopper, Daniel—who requested to go by the name Billy Mays (RIP)—wasn’t there for the beer, or at least he wasn’t admitting to it. “No, seriously, David Comes to Life is a fucking awesome album,” he said, “I got the Buy Early Get Now version, so I’m not buying it tonight, ’cause it’s waiting at Sonic Boom for me. I’m definitely buying a bunch of 7”s tonight. I brought $70.” His friend had a nosebleed, which would have not been strange if it had been a Fucked Up performance. Perhaps that’s just the power of the band.
Fucked Up have always been a Toronto band the city could be proud of. They’ve signed with the most respected labels and received praise by some of the biggest outlets (their last album in particular, The Chemistry of Common Life, received the full gamut of accolades, from Pitchfork to Polaris.) Yet unlike so many other Toronto champions, Fucked Up remain joyous members of the community, playing local sets on a regular basis; lead singer Damian Abraham was NXNE MC last year and now is on the new incarnation of MuchMusic’s The Wedge.
Another customer, Nick, said he’d “been a big fan of Fucked Up since 2002. In my lifetime I put on a show for them, I got their shit tattooed. I don’t know about tonight, tonight’s kind of silly, but I appreciate it. I appreciate the idea of record-day releases, and the last time I went to a store excited to buy something was in 1996 when Mobb Deep released Hell on Earth.” Another, Rob, only wanted, “hard-to-find 7″s, maybe a T-shirt or something. Maybe see some of the band members and say, ‘Hey, good job.'”
When people managed to score a purchase, they usually lifted the album up in the air to either protect it from the smushed masses, trophy it, or both. Beers, on the other hand, were usually kept close to the heart. Members of the band were also there, though picking them out of the crowd was difficult.
Some may roll their eyes, convinced the fans’ sincerity was compromised by the presence of free, tasty beer and yummy, smelly snacks. But we could also point out that in an age where physical copies of albums matter to only a few, and retailers try to win your heart with, say, a poster at best, creating that mix of fans, free booze, and of course the presence of the band themselves, is just about the most honest and legitimate “extra” an album can offer.