For one of the most hotly-tipped new bands of 2013, FIDLAR’s California mini-tour to launch their self-titled debut album was pretty low-key. A college house party at UC Davis; a DIY warehouse venue in LA; a high school formal (really) in Pomona; and a quickfire in-store gig at maybe the best record store in the world, Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Despite topping “acts to watch” lists all over the English-speaking world, and no doubt being able to fill much bigger rooms considering the ferocious support they enjoy in their native Los Angeles, FIDLAR’s strategy in playing small spaces to further intensify their already electric live show was a sound one. For even playing on a small stage crammed in the back of the cavernous Amoeba, and kids largely standing stock still so as to not knock over the records in the shelving rows that they had to stand in, FIDLAR killed it.
FIDLAR stands for ‘Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk,’ a maxim for young bratty skater kids, something akin to YOLO but (for now) without the douchebag connotations. The band’s stock sound is hard to pin down, variously shifting from in-your-face punk rock to Wavves-esque surf-pop and back again. The self-titled debut album is just days old, but they’ve already been on the road with The Hives and Delta Spirit, established a reputation as the hottest underground band in LA, and topped “acts to watch” lists from the likes of NME, Rolling Stone, VICE and TIME Magazine. And they’re playing at Amoeba.
Nothing of the store’s arrangement seemed to have been altered or reconfigured to accommodate a punk rock show. Imagine your local JB Hi-Fi or Sanity; now imagine trying to watch a band while standing in the “hip-hop” section. Bemused and unamused patrons flicked through Dylan and the Doobie Brothers as the four grungy 20-somethings of FIDLAR blasted through their quickfire 30-minute set. The aforementioned shelves of records made dancing or moshing near impossible, however hard the band tried to induce those reactions through the balltearing ‘White On White’ and the upbeat retro-pop of ‘Got No Money’ (the introduction for which was, word for word, “This song’s about not having any money and going to school and doing too much speed because you gotta do homework but then you just smoke a lot of weed instead).
It was a packed house from front to back as store security ushered people into the rows – “don’t block the walkway, don’t block the exist” – but for all bar the final five minutes, and signature anthem ‘Cheap Beer,’ the assorted skaters, stoners and surfers who filled Amoeba were consigned to the occasional headbanging or foot-tapping in time with the music. The hazy, lazy slacker vibes of ‘No Waves,’ the jangling lazy slacker vibes of ‘Wait For The Man,’ the squalling raucous ‘Stoked And Broke’ and ‘Cocaine’ – there’s a pretty clear theme running through FIDLAR’s discography, one of being broke and jobless but not caring as long as you’ve got just enough cash to get out of your mind that night. Which is exactly the theme that this loosely connected swarm of teenaged skaters, long-haired gutterpunks and school dropouts latch onto.
FIDLAR are set up directly in front of the sections for “used rock” and “punk oldies.” That’s pretty appropriate, because in all honesty, the four lads aren’t doing much in terms of breaking new sonic territory. What they are doing, though, is making familiar ground seem new and fresh again, their energetic and assaulting live shows and devil-may-care attitudes becoming an ethos for a new generation of LA punks. They finished up with a blistering rendition of ‘Cheap Beer,’ the kids finally getting up and moving about and jumping around in the rows to the chagrin of security and management. The song’s soon-to-be-famous refrain – “I! DRINK! CHEAP! BEER! SO! WHAT! FUCK! YOU!” – echoed around Amoeba, shouted back with fist pumps and hoarse voices and then it was over. Fans milled about to get their copy of the album signed, or flicking through the warehouse space that the store occupies.
On first glance, FIDLAR’s ethos isn’t one that parents would be too readily encouraging their kiddies to follow; drop out of school, don’t work, drink and smoke. But under all that outward rhetoric, as with the very notion of punk itself, the message is about not conforming to expectations, not blindly following the path you’re “supposed” to follow, not automatically subscribing to society’s notions, being yourself and not caring what others think of you or how much money you have or how you dress.
It’s there…. somewhere.