CONCERT REVIEW: FIDLAR
Updated: Oct 2, 2020
A crowd of classic punks, young college students, and a healthy mix of alternative types fill the Cat’s Cradle as FIDLAR takes stage. Out the gate, they launch into the high-energy, rowdy-rock sound they’re known for. Outfitted with punchy guitar riffs and screaming vocals, the band is their own breed of punk.
FIDLAR (an acronym for the pithy skate mantra “Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk”) has become the soundtrack for the garage punk scene in California. The band began basically on a whim by front man Zac Carper and guitarist Elvis Kuehn after a few jam sessions in the studio they both worked for. After their first release in 2011, they quickly gained popularity for their raw sound that brings with it a kind of catharsis only true punk rockers will recognize. With songs like “Cheap Beer” and “Wake Bake Skate,” FIDLAR isn’t concerned about making any large political statements. They write about what they know.
What Carper knew, though, shifted pretty dramatically from their first album to the second. While the self-titled first album touted songs about cocaine and “shitty pills,” the second one explores rehab, sobering up, and bad habits.
Despite Carper's decision to get sober as the face of a party band, FIDLAR still harbors the same manic energy in studio and on stage. If you’ve spent any time with their music, their performance at Cat’s Cradle was about what you’d expect. Responding to FIDLAR's on-stage attitude (a requisite blend of amusing nonchalance and loud enthusiasm), the crowd kept a mosh pit going that lasted through the whole show.
The concert wasn’t without surprise though. In between songs about speed and weed, Carper took time to acknowledge the problem of sexual assault swirling around modern American rhetoric before booting all the guys out of the mosh pit to allow an “all-female” pit, free of groping and trampling (details plucked from personal experience). While the whole sentiment was encased in a cavalier kind of humor, it was refreshing to see from a group of musicians who don’t typically take these kinds of stances in their lyrics. As is customary before the end of a show, Carper took time to thank some folks before playing their last song. He took it further by thanking every beating heart involved in the tour, from band members to the security team. It sounded genuinely grateful (surely, a symptom of his west coast upbringing but also perhaps, of learning from his mistakes, a subject he sings about often in their newest album, Too).
Carper chose rehab for a few reasons: following the overdose of his pregnant girlfriend, an inability to sustain that kind of lifestyle, and the creeping reality that his addiction to hard drugs was killing the band. His behavior and the success of the band had to row in the same direction or the foursome would likely dissolve.
What makes his sobriety a moot factor is that the band’s success isn’t driven by drug culture—it's about perspective. Their music-making techniques involve tinkering in the studio, partying, and taking advantage of inspiration as it comes. As is apparent from their live performances and interviews, FIDLAR doesn’t like to force anything. They do what feels naturally. A large part of their appeal is just that: a casual whatever-may-come approach. And not taking things too seriously.
Life’s short. Life’s a risk. Party on (responsibly).