Under the Umbrella



After a long, meandering Sunday out in Seattle's damp, fall-like weather, my Bumbershoot closed with a trio of memorable acts, bookended by No Age's lo-fi intensity and MSTRKRFT's rave-like dance party. But Toronto's Holy Fuck, who played the outdoor stage on Broad Street, was something else altogether. They have a drummer (Matt Schulz), a bassist (Matt McQuaid) and a pair of multi-instrumentalists (Brian Borcherdt, Graham Walsh) who play a variety of keyboards and tabletop electronics. The only lyrics are occasional and nonsensical, sung through distorted mics (something they share with their UK namesakes Fuck Buttons.) From the minute they hit the stage, they were a bundle of energy, jumping and twirling around to their self-made beats. 

But, there was something else going on here. The music was complex and well-built, closer to electro-acoustic than indie-electronic. At quieter points, their sound bordered on experimental; at others, funky groove. For all their onstage dancing, it was clear that these are some serious musicians, after much bigger game than your typical indie kids.

They closed with their soaring anthem, "Lovely Allen," which begins with a simple, synthesized theme before the drums and bass come crashing in, sending everyone into ecstatics. They let the music die out, then built it up again to an unbelievable crescendo, filled in with layer-upon-layer of sound, too many to decipher in a single hearing. It was so pretty and profound, it was almost impossible not to tear up. Simply put, one of the most transporting musical experiences I've ever had - including those I've had in concert halls.

There is something curious about the fact that a band with the name Holy Fuck is capable of these sorts of transcendences. No doubt they've been told by countless record company execs/father figures that their name is an obstacle to success, that they should call themselves something more family-appropriate and cash in. (To wit: they were denied a Canadian arts grant because of obscenity laws.) Is it that they just don't care? Or, are they arrogant enough to believe that what they've tapped into is so deep and powerful that eventually people will have to start saying their name? And that, by so doing, we'll all be a little less uptight and self-restrictive?

Say the name. Say it. Again.