Sailor Moon, Adderall, and Shame

by Stephan Boissonneault

The evening begins with the electrified stylings of a scrappy punk band from New York, called Been Stellar, and ends coated in sweat, thanks to shame, one of the biggest UK punk bands right now. 

The darkened upstairs venue of Les Foufounes Électriques—a storied venue with its own punk rock history, like housing Nirvana in the early ‘90s or the current incarnation of Black Flag—is packed, and everyone is waiting patiently in the growing line for beer—cash only of course. Been Stellar just ended their set and it was nothing short of stellar, but the real event is moments away.

The words “shame” hang over the stage’s curtains across a background of black and blue and stars. It’s nothing fancy, no flashing lights or video backdrop, just a tour sign that looks rugged and worn. By just looking inside the venue, you wouldn’t know it was 2023, and that’s part of the charm. 

Shame takes the stage with the frenetic “Fingers of Steel,”— the opener to the new album, Food for Worms—as the minor-keyed, dueling guitars swap out riffs. Lead singer Charlie Steen is wearing a tight (it looks like a child-sized) Sailor Moon T-shirt, already sweating a minute into the song, as he rhythmically beats his chest between screaming verses. His voice has the magical quality of pulling you in closer, wanting to absorb its power. He has the audience under his spell, actually, the whole band does, but Steen holds out his hands composing like a maniacal puppeteer. 

Bassist Josh Finerty begins stampeding across the stage as the band jumps into “Alphabet,” the opener from 2021’s Drunk Tank Pink, and the crowd moshing begins. We move in closer, close enough to see the whites of Steen’s eyes as he looks as if he’s about to dive off the stage. But not yet. He does so quickly during the older track, “Concrete,” again commanding the audience to move by his will as they chant along “No more questions.” A moment to give some praise to drummer Charlie Forbes, an absolute beast holding his band together as they trill-pick their guitars, chant vocals, and run around, unhinged.

There’s a point where someone in the crowd asks what we are all thinking—where did Steen obtain the Sailor Moon t-shirt? “I got this in Chinatown, in your beautiful city Montreal!” he screams. “In fact, let’s all cheer for Chinatown!” The crowd breaks into a thunderous applause right before shame launches into “Six Pack.” Steen of course removes his shirt, revealing his South London tough guy strong physique, and begins flexing invisible dumbbells in unison with the muffled wah-wah guitars. 

Every frontman has their own style when playing the stage, and at this point until the end of the show, it seems Steen wants to work out and sweat as much as he possibly can, doing reps with the mic stand and flexing his pecs and arms. It’s funny for a bit, but after a while, you realize he has to keep moving, or perhaps he’d run out of steam. I’ve never seen Iggy Pop in his heyday, but it must be something like that, minus the bodily mutilation. The only point where Steen and the crowd switch from moshing to swaying is during the human equalizer “Adderall,” a solemn number about how half of the world is on some sort of medication to get them through the day. 

The pièce de résistance of the entire night is during the last three songs from the shame debut album, Songs of Praise, but the real cherry was during “Gold Hole,” when Steen crowd surfed towards the venue rafters and climbed them until he jumped off backward and was caught with ease. You don’t see shit like that at every show. Shame brought the intensity and the crowd was happy to oblige. 

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