Show Review: The World/Inferno Friendship Society with The Phenomenauts and Locksley at the Rickshaw Stop, 10/3/2011

by Jonathan Pirro on October 4, 2011

Let us now speak of brave men, who lived their lives just as they would have it

Let us now speak of brave men, who lived their lives just as they would have it

It’s safe to say, in this day and age, that defining what constitutes “punk” music is irrationally difficult. Classicists will tell you that it means 3-4 chords, lightning-fast drums, a general disregard for playing instruments BESIDES drums with extreme skill, and lyrics focused on dissent, disturbance, and general disquiet with the way things are. Others will claim that it’s more the attitude that matters than the instrumentation; the DIY aesthetic, the “we’re angry and we’re here to let you know what’s wrong with the world” message, and the desire to rebel against any manner of what constitutes the norm. The latter argument usually bears more weight; too often are to be found multi-platinum-selling artists playing their same recycled chords, in the aforementioned classic formula, with no specifically diligent message — only an intent to be a product that is easy to swallow, and thus, sell. Bands such as the World/Inferno Friendship Society are better examples of the image that punk music has so deftly stood for over the years, shifted into a medium of instrumentation and songwriting that borrows from so many genres and walks of life that, while they could not be called “punk rock” in the classic 70’s musical style, they possess the attitude and energy in spades — after all, how often do you hear jazz and klezmer music so furious that it breeds explosive mosh pits?

Jesse Laz of Locksley

Jordan Laz of Locksley

Every act in Monday night’s wild show at the Rickshaw Stop seemed to desire to one-up the one before it, and even openers Locksley had a ton of dynamite thrown into their performance before they’d even finished their first song. When brothers Jesse and Jordan Laz weren’t playing their explosive breed of power pop, crossing the classic sounds of Buddy Holly and the Stray Cats with wildly aggressive takes on the British Invasion, they traded serenading duties back and forth while guitarist Kai Kennedy blazed away on his axe, filling the tiny space with gloriously abrasive melodies. All three switched places on and off throughout their set, with one defining moment coming when Kennedy and Jesse Laz wrapped themselves into a human pretzel, each playing the other’s guitar, while Jordan bounced jubilantly back and forth on the other end of the stage. The set seemed to finish barely after it started, so overpowering was the energy onstage.

Commander Angel Nova of the Phenomenauts

Commander Angel Nova of the Phenomenauts

If the crowd had at all been feeding off the massive amount of energy that Locksley had brought to the evening, they displayed it in full form upon the arrival of local San Francisco heroes The Phenomenauts. Barely packed onto the small stage due to their great array of stands, equipment, and extra space gear — the Phenomenauts play “rocket roll”, so defined by the futuristic, sci-fi lyrics that grace their catchy rockabilly and surf-influenced punk songs — the band was greeted with an ear-splitting roar matched only by the fanfare of their own opening chords. The packed dancefloor quickly festered into a massive collection of mosh pits and miniature dance parties, with the Phenomenauts tearing through their set with nary a pause between songs, and only a few brief greetings to their avid onlookers. While limited in movement, the quintet traded duties with throwing surprises into each song, such as lead singer Commander Angel Nova leaping off of the drum riser from song to song, or backup vocalist Ensign assaulting their fans with a toilet-paper gun and megaphone. The only lull in the energy — most likely as a chance to catch a single breath — was the tragic ballad “Cyborg”, sung by Nova with Professor Greg Arius backing up on keyboards, with nearly everyone in the audience offering their own accompaniment.

Jack Terricloth of the World/Inferno Friendship Society

Jack Terricloth of the World/Inferno Friendship Society

Despite the homecoming love for the Phenomenauts, the greatest surge of energy came in response to the headliners’ performance. The World/Inferno Friendship Society, whose lineup has shifted among some 30-odd different musicians, currently boasts seven members, all of whom not only fit onto the cramped stage, but also brought back the wild gusto that had been primarily seen at the beginning of the night in Locksley’s onstage antics. Singer Jack Terricloth played his role of frontman with unequaled charisma, managing to keep his suit unwrinkled and his leather shoes uncrushed even amongst his jumping, cavorting, and excited bellows that shifted from hellish caterwauling to morbid crooning with barely a moment’s notice. With backing siren sounds provided by bassist Sandra Malak, Terricloth’s powerful voice was the icing on the cake to a magnificent set of jubilant music, brought to life in glorious multifaceted instrumentation.

Leslie Wacker on sax and Rebecca Schlappich on viola

Leslie Wacker on sax and Rebecca Schlappich on viola

While the small stage offered the most limited mobility, and therefore less sophisticated tricks like switching instruments or trading places, the musicianship of the players was definitely at its peak for the Brooklyn septet. With keyboards, alto sax and viola added to the standard 4-piece-rock-band-repertoire, elements of sleazy jazz, bouncy klezmer, melancholy soul and devilish salsa crept into the speedy numbers, each of which was met with a cataclysmic burst of shoving and dancing from the crowd. Though the audience had dwindled significantly after the departure of the Phenomenauts fans, the dancefloor was nonetheless deftly packed and endured its definite share of abuse from the stomping boots and shoes of the jovial crowd.

Bass queen Sandra Malak

Bass queen Sandra Malak

Rather than the minimal banter of his predecessors, Jack Terricloth took time during the performance to introduce each song and greet the excited crowd while they heckled him with good humor. Stories of times long past, as well as origins of songs themselves, were described in detail, with occasional scathing remarks about the city of San Francisco and the dwindling scene of “mosh pits at jazz concerts” thrown in to spice up the night a bit. When Terricloth snorted derisively at the rumored endorsement of Governor Jerry Brown by punk rock godfather Jello Biafra, he was mildly taken aback when Biafra himself took the stage (after an expert segue into the much-requested “All of California and Everyone Who Lives There Stinks”) and expressed his dissatisfaction with supposedly-reliable news sources, insisting that Jack not stick to Wikipedia as his source of current, or even true, information. With Jello’s appearance veering the band off its planned setlist and into a grand performance of “Brother of the Mayor of Bridgewater”, it was truly a glorious moment to be remembered and a definite highlight of what had already been an unforgettable performance.

Jello Biafra and Jack Terricloth discuss the less-than-reliable news of late

Jello Biafra and Jack Terricloth discuss the less-than-reliable news of late

Tonight’s performance was, to me, an example of a magnificent show that truly captures a marvelously rebellious attitude throughout its course. Whether it was from the rip-roaring kickoff from Locksley, the outer-space antics of the Phenomenauts, or the explosive cabaret rock circus of the World/Inferno Friendship Society, each passing hour brought a new aesthetic and style, while keeping with them the insistence that they absolutely were not going to run out of energy, and that the 127-person space of the tiny club was barely enough to contain their musical fury. Such fervor, both onstage and in the crowd, is rarely seen across all acts in a tiny show, let alone something massive like a day-long festival; it was, therefore, a truly wonderful experience to behold every single person in the Rickshaw Stop dancing, bellowing, chanting, and otherwise giving all that they had to a night that was, for many, the best they’d had in years.

The World/Inferno Friendship Society's setlist

The World/Inferno Friendship Society's setlist

Setlist:

  1. Tattoos Fade
  2. Annie the Imaginary Lawyer
  3. Just The Best Party
  4. I Am Sick of People Being Sick of My Shit
  5. Lust for Timing
  6. The Apple Was Eve
  7. The Velocity Of Love
  8. Let’s Steal Everything
  9. The Disarming Smile
  10. Jake & Eggers
  11. The Politics of Passing Out
  12. Thumb Cinema
  13. All of California and Everyone Who Lives There Stinks
  14. Canonize Philip K. Dick, Ok
  15. Zen and the Art of Breaking Everything in This Room
Encore:
  1. The Naughty Little Rat Makes New Friends
  2. Cats Are Not Lucky Creatures
  3. Brother of the Mayor of Bridgewater (impromptu performance inspired by Jello Biafra’s appearance)
  4. Addicted To Bad Ideas
All photos by Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

More Posts - Twitter - Facebook

Read Also:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: