Tuesday, July 12th @ 1st Ward
World/Inferno Friendship Society
Voices of Addiction
Beat the Smart Kids
For many reasons, I often find myself pitying people who never got into punk. The politics, the fashion, the zines, the sense of community—it all just seems so much more authentic than, for example, listening to Rush or Katy Perry. I just don’t see what folks get out of that.
But one of the biggest reasons I pity non-punk fans is the live music experience. I just can’t imagine paying $80 to see my favorite band play from the nosebleed section of the Pepsi Center. Due to my anxiety, I don’t like being in big crowds. According to my deep-seated belief that tickets should never run more than $20, I would never pay that much for a show. And because I like to sing around and dance like an idiot to my favorite bands’ songs, I can’t fathom staking out a seat that far from the stage. And that’s not to mention parking complications, $15 beers, or long lines to use the restroom. Again, I just don’t see what folks get out of that.
My experience at the World/Inferno Friendship Society, Culture Shock show was completely antithetical to the standard music experience (and completely traditional for the punk experience). For one, the cover was $15. The venue, 1st Ward, had a capacity veering towards a few hundred or so. Drinks were reasonably priced. And I sang and danced around like an idiot right next to the stage.
Furthermore, I got to be buddies for the night with Jasper, the bassist of Culture Shock, because I complimented him on the new record (Attention Span, reviewed here).
Our meeting occurred after I saw one of the openers, Voices of Addiction—a straight political punk band with some impressive chops (sorry Beat the Smart Kids, but 7:30 is damn early in a city with intense rush hour traffic and I missed your set; I’m sure it ruled!). I ventured outside to get some air and Jasper was there smoking a cigarette.
“The new record is great,” I told him without introducing myself.
He thanked me and asked me to expound on my opinion of the production value. The band was trying not to sound overproduced because it wouldn’t be in the spirit of Culture Shock, he said, which makes sense since the original albums were recorded before major breakthroughs in technology significantly decreased recording budgets of independent groups, allowing even punk bands to sound radio fresh. As such, those old records reflect the fact that they were recorded in the ‘80s, long before everything was done digitally. I told him I thought the record had the perfect amount of production. He thanked me and after some casual conversation, asked me if I was from Chicago. I told him my wife and I made the trip from Denver because they weren’t coming to our town and there was no way in hell I’d ever even consider missing a bill with World/Inferno and Culture Shock. He thanked me again and then excused himself due to his impending set time. (He said something like, “Why don’t we talk later? The last band just finished and I have to go play now.” Very polite, that Jasper.)
Here’s another thing I love about punk: When I see bands like Culture Shock, I feel so fortunate that I’m alive (and not a Korn fan). And I don’t experience these life-affirming feelings very often. It’s punk as spirituality, and it’s way better than church.
The band opened with the song “Pressure” from Onwards and Upwards and closed with “Ten Per Cent Off” from Go Wild. In between, they balanced the set nicely with new and old material. In fact, the reason I don’t have any pictures of them playing is because a track from Attention Span called “Visibility” that decries the use of social media (“123, Nail me to the screen / Look at this face booked into some reality / Please like me / All these instant friends are somewhere in between the two realities / Solitude shares in the company / It’s not 3D, this visibility / It’s social media-ocrity”). Before playing the song, the singer, Dick Lucas—of Subhumans UK and Citizen Fish, of course—criticized the use of phones at concerts for the purposes of ostentatious documentation via social media. I didn’t want to be part of the problem, so I kept my phone in my pocket.
At one point in between songs, Jasper said, “Is there anyone here from Denver tonight?” My wife and I looked at each other and laughed hysterically. It’s not often that the bassist of one of your favorite bands (namely Citizen Fish, but that new Culture Shock record hasn’t left my current rotation in weeks) tells an inside joke involving you to a crowded venue from the stage. That’s the other really cool thing about punk—the intimacy. That I could just walk up to one of the band members and strike up a conversation. And he didn’t have a rockstar complex. And he seemed genuinely interested in talking to me. It reminded me of when I sang “Sink With California” with Youth Brigade on the stage years ago. That was some of the most fun I’ve had in my entire life, and another reason I can’t imagine punk not being a part of it.
Also during the set, a woman who danced harder than everyone else eventually threw up on the stage. Embarrassed, she quickly wiped the puddle of vomit into the crowd and bits landed on my leg. Now, I would be lying if I claimed that was the first time I had vomit on my person. I’d also be lying if I claimed that was the first time I had someone else’s vomit on my person. Furthermore, it would be untruthful to pretend that was the first time I had someone else’s vomit on my person at a punk show. Sometimes these things happen. The only action I took was to step back a few feet to avoid the source of the vomit glistening on my leg, lest more come out and land on my other limbs (or torso, or face). To her credit, she made quite the comeback as she stage dived several times and danced around during the World/Inferno set. This rousing example of resilience should inspire us all.
World/Inferno Friendship Society
Talk about life-affirming magic, World/Inferno Friendship Society really knows how to get the soul singing, the feet moving, and the heart swelling with joy. They’re a group of punks who dress to the nines, learned to play instruments other than guitars, basses, and drums (though they learned those too), and really don’t fuck around when it comes to the performance.
WIFS commenced with an Ava Cherry cover… Just kidding. (That was a “fan of WIFS who has seen the band many times” joke.) They began with “Tattoos Fade,” which is generally the song they begin with every show (last Hallowmas notwithstanding; the band placed it second at that particular gig). They played a healthy mix of songs from throughout their career, including “Zen and the Art of Breaking Everything in this Room” from Just the Best Party, “Addicted to Bad Ideas” from the album of that name, and “Dolce Far Niente” (kind of a new one) from This Packed Funeral. And just to give us a glimpse into the songwriting prowess we can expect on the next record, they played a brand new number that lit my spirit with elegance and passion.
Upon the conclusion of the first set, the crowd called for an encore in traditional WIFS fashion by chanting “Tonight we’re gonna fuck shit up!” in unison. The band responded in kind by playing a few more tunes. Things got a bit blurry for me around this point in the evening (thanks reasonably priced drinks!), so my testimony as a witness from this point on is suspect at best. I remember continuing to dance until the end, and I recall a feeling of gratitude that I got to fly across a few states to bear witness to two of my favorite bands fucking shit up for a night. I’m not sure how long the smile lasted on my face after the evening’s proceedings, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that it’s good to be alive.
Other random thoughts:
- I was both surprised and a bit bummed that this tour didn’t roll through Denver. Surprised because it seems Subhumans always makes it a point of playing the Mile High City, so why not Culture Shock? (I know they’re different bands; my reasoning here is to the sole benefit of my personal interests.) And bummed because, well, although I enjoy being other places, I hate airplane travel. If a tour of this magnitude ever happens again, I’ll have to make a road trip. Hell, I may even follow them around Grateful Dead-style.
- After Jasper asked if anyone was from Denver, I think Dick said something like, “Are you just saying the first thing that pops into your head?” That was funny too, because not even he was in on the joke—which makes that particular part of the evening that much better.
- The bartender at 1st Ward saw my wife’s ID and said, “Cool! You guys are from Colorado?” Apparently he lived there for awhile, moved to Chicago at the behest of his special lady friend, and wanted to go back one day. He bought us a shot in a show of square state solidarity. (Side note: Free shots are a double-edged sword: appreciated at the time but widely considered a bad idea with both hindsight and a hangover.)
- In Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield says, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” Substitute reading books with listening to records and I feel that way about WIFS. I bet Jack and I would have a good conversation. (Of course, I feel that way about CItizen Fish, but I’ve already spoken with Jasper and I’ve had conversations with Dick when my band opened for Subhumans last year.)