It has been a rocky few years for World/Inferno Friendship Society. After the release of 2007's Addicted to Bad Ideas almost all of the band's long running contributors left. 2011's The Anarchy and the Ecstasy saw the band reform with new members, most of whom left shortly thereafter.
It seemed that perhaps WI/FS would end with a whimper; this would have been a shame, because they're utterly unique. By combining soul music with classic punk and old world folk, the band have forged a daring mix of danger and celebration. But, just as it seemed that the band would forever be in a state of flux, they suddenly congealed, released the dynamite Turnstile Comix EP and embarked on a tour with a revamped lineup that hit like a rhino.
Punknews' John Gentile shared a few drinks with Jack Terricloth, where they talked about World/Inferno's ill-fated tour with the Adicts, the band's current status, and threatening President Reagan's life.
JACK TERRICLOTH HAS A COUGHJack Terricloth, holding a glass of red wine, sits at a table in the back of the bar of Philadelphia's Union Transfer. A pair of nervous, but enthused young men have just approached Terricloth and are telling him how great he is. He receives the compliments with warmth and grace, though the praises are piled so high upon him that it's somewhat hard for him to respond with anything more than thanks, as the compliments leave no real room for conversation. Satisfied that they've actually met Terricloth himself, the young men scurry away, fearful that they might be taking up too much of Jack's time. Little do they know that Terricloth has been killing time, and bottles of wine, at the Union Transfer since 4 p.m. His band, World/Inferno Friendship Society, are due to play their final set of the tour later that night.
But, there's a problem. Because it's the end of a tour, Terricloth's voice is slightly hoarse. For any run-of-the-mill punk band, Terricloth's affliction wouldn't even be worth mentioning because, when every lyric is screamed or barked, who cares if the vowels sound a little scratchy?
Of course, World/Inferno Friendship Society are no run-of-the-mill punk band. Mixing together '20s swing with '70s northern soul and elements of classic punk, World/Inferno finds their binding in Terricloth's Mario Lanza meets Ronald Isley delivery. If the ringleader of the circus falters when setting the band's keystone, surely, the performance would collapse.
Worse, it's not something that Terricloth can ease into. Every single World/Inferno performance starts the same way. The band's percussionists (plural, that is) pound on timpani type drums, first starting slow, and then speeding up, firing up the crowd, until the march becomes a charge and Terricloth takes the stage, bottle of wine in hand, and announces, "Hello [city name here] we are the! World! Inferno! Friendship! Societyyyyyyyyyy!" And then the band snaps into the anthemic "Tattoos Fade."
He stretches out the very last syllable of "society" so long that it both acts as an crowd energizer as well as a bridge from the pre-show excitement to the anthemic song itself. In effect, that one syllable is the most important syllable of the entire evening. It requires charisma, enunciation and most importantly, undamaged vocal chords. When Terricloth nails it (he usually does) it's the battle charge of a thousand trumpets blaring at once. But, if his voice causes him to approach it with less than full power, well, the bridge collapses. If the show starts with a misstep, the night may be ruined.
Although tiny claws seem to be clutching Terricloth's throat, and that all important syllable is but three hours away, Terricloth seems entirely unconcerned. It's not that he doesn't care about the night's performance (in fact, it seems performance may be one of the only few things that gets him up in the‚?¶ well, afternoon), it's just that he doesn't seem to be worrying about it right now.
As Terricloth sits there, I am reminded of a piece profiling Frank Sinatra written by Gay Talese. In the piece, Sinatra is angry at, well, the world, because he's about to film his big comeback special and he has a cold, which of course, could hamper his performance.
You could scoff at comparing the lead singer of a band that is "moderately known" to the great Chairman of the Board, but the comparisons are easy to discern. Both men were born and raised in northern New Jersey (In fact, their respective birthplaces are less than a half hour drive apart). They're both skinny guys with slightly lanky bodies. They're both full-blooded Italians. They both depend on the voice for their career and treat it with special care. They both reference the ancient tradition of the Italian tenor simply by existing. They both have done a lot of drugs.
In Talese's piece, Sinatra grows increasingly agitated because he can't control the lighting, he can't control the cinematography, he can't control the band, and most importantly, he can't control his own mucous. Sinatra knows that in order for the TV special to be worthy of the name, every single minute detail must be exactly perfect, and because he can't have his thumb on every detail at every moment, he can't be sure that the special will truly be a "Sinatra" special.
By contrast, Terricloth seems to be completely at ease. He's not worrying about the mixing desk, the PA or the lighting. Terricloth seems to know that it's not an angle or certain microphone that makes Terricloth, but rather, he knows that Jack Terricloth makes Jack Terricloth. Everything else is trim. There is chaos in this world and he is A-OK with it. In fact, as I speak to him, there is an argument going on backstage about the end of tour receipts, and about who should get what. Terricloth, who has the biggest stake in the game and is the person that one would expect to be keeping a close track on every penny, doesn't even shrug about what is happening with the group's finances.
"I don't give a shit," Terricloth says. "If I had more than two wits about me, I'd probably be a senator by now. I have a contempt for all capital."
After I point out that being broke is no fun and that I personally like to have disposable income, Terricloth clarifies his comment. "Being poor is not a good thing. I've been poor many times in my life and certainly will be again. I just don't like mixing it with art. It might be a personality flaw, but I just don't like the business end. When they start talking about business, I leave the room."
The show is in less than three hours, people are getting tense backstage and his voice may be scratched but Terricloth looks like he's lounging on the park bench on a Sunday afternoon.
SHE SHOT ME DOWN
The day that I meet up with Terricloth is March 30, a momentous anniversary to say the least. Though to be fair, Terricloth points out the day's significance without my prompting, implying that he keeps the day sacred. You see, March 30 is the anniversary of John Hinkley's assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
"I was going to school in Bridgewater, New Jersey with nothing to do," Terricloth says. "The cafeteria was a very dangerous place because there were always gang fights there and nobody liked the punks. The white gangs fought the black gangs, the black gangs fought the white gangs, and they all fought the punks."
So, instead of getting beat up in the lunch room, Terricloth would spend lunch in the school library and kill time by dialing the operator. He says, "I would call up and say I was kind of depressed. The operator would say, 'Oh, don't be depressed!' I would say, 'I kind of want to kill myself,' and the operator would say, 'Oh, don't kill yourself!' Then, I would spend an hour talking to someone who was in Indiana or somewhere."
But one day, the particular operator who answered was having none of Terricloth's meanderings and hung up on him. Either angered or amused, Terricloth again dialed the 0 and when the operator answered, he yelled, "I shot President Reagan and I'll do it again and again and again and again!"
Of course, the operator didn't know that Terricloth was referencing a song by the Suicidal Tendencies. And of course, Terricloth didn't know that on that very day, President Reagan was giving a speech in Princeton, a mere two towns away.
The secret service swarmed the school less than 45 minutes after the call and all the students were sent home. The next morning, Bridgewater's Courier News ran an article titled, Police look for student after threat to Reagan.
Thinking that the whole fiasco was hilarious, Terricloth and his punk friends photocopied the article using the library copy machine and shared it amongst themselves. But, one of the librarians saw what the young punks were up to and became suspicious.
"The principal called us in and said he knew who did it," Terricloth says, before mimicking an authoritarian voice. "'You're all going to get in a lot trouble!' 'This will go on your permanent record and you won't get into college!' All of us stayed firm until this one skater kid who totally snitched."
Suddenly, Terricloth shapes his voice into a cracking squeal, playing the part of the rat, "'I don't want this to go on my record! I had no idea! It was Terricloth- That guy!'"
The next morning, the secret service, who were carrying guns, knocked on the door to Terricloth's parents' house before anyone was awake. While a more sensible person might have realized that the jig was up, Terricloth made for an escape. He rushed to the windows. But, to his misfortune, the windows were old fashioned crank windows that take some time to twist open, as opposed to the more modern sliding windows. While Terricloth furiously cranked away at the window mechanism, the secret service stormed through the house and snatched him in the middle of his break.
Terricloth's father, in a mix of proud Italian blood and higher-education learning, screamed at the Secret Service, "You can't arrest a minor without a warrant! You can't arrest a minor without a warrant!"
But, they could and did. Terricloth was cuffed and shuttled to the police station. "I was actually not worried about being taken to the police station," Terricloth says. "I was worried about when I got back. They took me to the police station and quickly realized that I was a stupid 15 year old and not a threat to President Reagan. They let me go, but I was on probation for years afterwards."
As for the looming threat of old man Ventantonio, Terricloth laughs. "My father actually had a pretty good sense of humor about it. We get along now, but we didn't back then."
A MAN AND HIS MUSIC
Terricloth is perpetually clothed in a slick suit and tie, though the cufflinks that jut out from his sleeves and the spats which jut out from his pant legs suggest that the finery is more of an artistic statement than a business necessity. At any moment he looks like he might step into a speakeasy or run into Nick and Nora Charles.
The cut of the suit is magnified by his pale skin. Although Terricloth was born Pietro Ventantonio and is full-blooded paisan, he bucks the Italian stereotype of copper skin and dark features. In fact, between his slender build, china white skin, and perfectly square teeth, he almost looks vampiric‚??an attribute he used to play up by wearing red contacts. Though in recent years, the red contacts have been shelved, perhaps, because they were too showy.
His hair is thinning, but he keeps it cut short and trim, as if to show that he's losing his hair, but is confident enough to use it as a sign of masculinity, rather than age. As with other men cursed (blessed?) with the affliction, such as Bruce Willis and Patrick Stewart, Terricloth uses the thinning hair as a way to cap off the package. And like those men, it has made him something of a sex object for many of the girls (and some of the boys) in the audience. Any World/Inferno concert will have its line of ladies up front, hands clutched in front of themselves, just staring at Terricloth as he performs. Comparisons to Morrissey and his aura of charm over his own fans would not be misplaced. Or perhaps references to Dion Belmont, who would melt hearts, and other things, with the tip of his tongue would be more apropos.
"I wouldn't say that I'm trying to be a sex object," Terricloth laughs. "I'm doing the thing that I love most and I'm doing my best at it. I think that's charismatic. Certainly, I'm not trying to take advantage of anyone or anything. People like to see someone enjoying themselves, and I'm certainly enjoying myself."
Terricloth's charisma has caused something of a secondary effect. At an Inferno show, a good deal of the audience (mostly younger folk) dress up similar to Terricloth, swathing themselves in retro formal wear, mimicking his styles and mannerisms. Indeed, projection of the man has outgrown the man himself and duplicates have begun to crop up. For instance, in New York, a "drag king" has modeled himself entirely after Terricloth.
"I discourage the cult of personality‚?¶ even though I made up a name for myself," Terricloth says. "We are unique. Like Stiff Little Fingers says, 'I don't want to be anybody's hero.' I certainly have heroes, but I'm very happy just being a popular singer."
Terricloth's matinee idol persona seems to carry from the stage to his life. Onstage, the band work like dogs, sweating buckets and ruining undershirts. But offstage, leisure and whimsy are the mandate. Most days he doesn't wake up until three in the afternoon. He then visits the bar across the street from his apartment to use the internet because his place has none. On the weekends, he and his lady-friend visit Atlantic City because "she has a gambling problem." While there, much in the spirit of pre-war relaxation, Terricloth takes in the beach (even though he's perpetually pale as a ghost) and enjoys the saunas.
"I like Atlantic City because it's a transient place," he says. "No one is really from there, so it's like hanging out at a train station. People are just coming through all the time. Anything can happen."
It's fitting that Terricloth takes holiday at a place of chance. Between the group's run in with sleazy promoters, confused police and agitated bands that have been blown off their own stage, they seem to constantly be getting into scraps‚??but always seem to tumble out of it more or less intact. "Never question one's luck," Terricloth says. "It's only by the grace of the Great Pumpkin that I'm moving around. Questioning luck would be a terrible thing to do. That's just inviting disaster."
This Great Pumpkin that Terricloth speaks of is the honored guest at the band's annual Hallowmas show, their biggest and most riotous event every year. Either based on the similarly named character from Peanuts, or perhaps a more ancient creature from pre-Christian Europe, the Great Pumpkin is celebrated at Hallowmas by the band going all out in their shows and usually ends with the band and entire audience parading out into the street.
Although the Great Pumpkin has never been explicitly defined by the band, he seems to be the personification of the band's mission: Style and chaos. Taste and a degree of selfishness. Enthusiasm and an utter contempt for authority.
"If you don't want to question luck, are you superstitious?" I ask Jack.
"I am very superstitious," he replies. "I cross myself when walking by a church. I light candles whenever we go on tour."
"Are you religious, then?"
"Only in a superstitious way," he says. "I was born a Great Pumpkinist and I'll die a Great Pumpkinist. I keep Halloween holy. I certainly have rituals I go through, certain things I do every night to make sure it works out. It usually does."
Indeed, he seems to be perpetually in control of the situation, or when not in control, comfortable with the chaos. It seems hard to catch Terricloth off guard, if only because he's so flexible that any verbal strike would just cause him to twist around it like a snake. He's hard to pin down. Modern media has painted suit-wearing men as either business magnates or, according to Mad Men, men who were men and liked women to be women.
Terricloth is neither of these characters. If anything, he's closer to the slick hep-cats of the Prohibition era. Though really, between the snappy phrases which constantly pour from his mouth, his perpetual impish grin, and his unflappable calm, he's less Don Draper and more Bugs Bunny, or probably more accurately, Br'er Rabbit.
Still, somewhat surprisingly, for a man who seems so aware of the universe's machinations, he is not immune to embarrassment. Though Terricloth supports himself through World/Inferno, as he puts it, he "takes pick up gigs."
"What kind?" I ask. He pauses briefly before replying "It's acting gigs. Mostly television series. I don't really want to talk about it. I'll talk about drugs, but I won't talk about television."
A SWINGIN' AFFAIR!
Frankly, you could make an argument that World/Inferno are the most unique group in punk rock. Certainly, under all but the most stringent applications of the phrase, the group are punk. They sing about running from the cops. One of their most popular sing-a-longs is "Only Anarchists Are Pretty." Terricloth routinely introduces "All the World is a Stage Dive" as "Circle that A, motherfucker!"
But, where most punk bands would use that content as an excuse to dive into bland buzzsaw guitars, World/Inferno reache back to the era of swing. Onstage they routinely have nine plus members, including saxophones, bassoons, two or more keyboardists, and even a mustachioed accordion player.
While the band rumble through bombastic but skillful Glen Miller meets Dexy's Midnight Runners meets New York Dolls music, Terricloth calls out paeans to love as well as smash things up for the sake of smashing things up. Terricloth's voice is the tie that binds the group. His voice is smooth, but still genuine. Unlike other traditional style singers, he manages to "sound" youthful, despite having used his vocal chords for over 25 years. He sings cleanly, from his stomach, so when he sings about happy stuff, people around him get happy. When he's bummed out, the tenor in his voice grows deeper, but always keeps at least a hint of irreverence.
2006's Red Eyed Soul marked an important chapter in the band's career. While they had previously released two LPs and a string of singles, on Red Eye Soul they went from being a cult band known for having a devoted if somewhat creepy fan base, to a cult band known for having a devoted if somewhat creepy fan base, that a lot of people knew about. Red Eye Soul was a massive double LP, but despite its size, the songs were as tightly written as Ramones tunes and perfectly encapsulated what the band were: They ran from the police. They were seduced by older women. They stole from people. They had a lot of horns. They held grudges. They rocked, man.
On a roll, they released Addicted to Bad Ideas just over a year later. Though Bad Ideas was more compact than its predecessor, it was even more daring. Telling the story of perennial character actor Peter Lorre, Bad Ideas spoke of fame, dames and heroin use. In fact, it was such an artistic triumph that the band took it to the stage, creating a multimedia experience based on the work. Like Pink Floyd's The Wall stage show, the Bad Ideas stage show was heralded as creative, daring and utterly unique. And like The Wall, it failed to generate any profit and cost a lot of money for all those who were involved.
Undeterred by financial flops and invigorated by creative conquest, Terricloth charged forward with the band's live show, which was as powerful as ever. However, for reasons that arise as people get older, following Bad Ideas almost every single member of World/Inferno quit over the span of a few months.
Terricloth is quick to point out that "We don't really have a lineup. We have a bunch of people that I call up and see if they show up. It's kind of the idea of World/Inferno to have a rotating lineup. In my previous band, Sticks 'n' Stones, anytime someone quit it was a tragedy. So, I was like, 'Let's not make it a tragedy every time someone quits.'" He's right that World/Inferno is more a collective than a "band." Referencing their records shows that virtually every release has a different lineup. In fact, they've had at least 46 different people cycle through the band, including a member of Dexy's Midnight Runners.
Still, 2010 through 2011 saw the departure of many long-time Infernites that fans saw essential to the group's makeup: Accordion player Franz Nicolay, who had been in the band since 2000; Alto saxophonist Maura Corrigan and Tenor saxophonist Peter Hess, who had been in the band since 1998; Drummer Benjamin Kotch, who had been in the band since 1997; guitarist Lucky Strano, who had been in the band since 1996.
In fact, by mid-2011, the only Infernites who had been in the group for longer then a year were Terricloth, bassist Sandra Malak who joined in 2006, and pianist Matthew Landist who joined in 2008.
Despite Terricloth's insistence that World/Inferno are a shifting group of people, the loss of several of the group's most distinctive figures does seem to cause him grief. "I understand that people have to go and do something else," says Terricloth. "I can appreciate it they go off and they keep playing music. I get mad if they stop playing music. If they go on and do something of their own like Franzi or Yula, I completely understand that. It hurts me when someone goes from being so talented and just stops."
Indeed, Terricloth remains on good terms with some ex-Infernites. He went to Nicolay's wedding. But, when Terricloth refers to "someone being so talented" it definitely feels like he's referring to a person specifically, and not an abstraction.
I think back to a 2010 interview I did with Terricloth. At the time, Lucky Strano had just left the group. Strano, who had been with the group since their inception, was arguably as much as a part of Inferno as Terricloth. Something of a guitar wunderkind, Strano brought the tactical strike of 1980s hardcore, juicing up Inferno's attack when needed, but also masterfully pulling back and unleashing some soul when the tune called for it. A guitarist who can be vicious and sweet is a rare bird indeed. At the time of Strano's departure, Terricloth said, "Lucky‚??I'm a little confused about that because he's the best, coolest guitar player."
A brief survey of the internet shows that aside from a guest spot on the most recent Morning Glory album and a band called Devastation Wagon that barely lasted a year, Strano has been almost entirely absent from music since leaving Inferno. Hmmm‚?¶.
But, as the old Van Halen brothers' adage goes, "If you can't work with anyone, maybe it's not them‚?¶ maybe it's you." I ask Terricloth, "Are you difficult to work with?"
"No, I don't think I'm difficult to work with," he says. "This is a lifestyle choice. People think that they'll be crazy for a year and join World/Inferno and then they'll grow out of it and go have kids. It's what most of the ex-members have done. We're like the college years of an awful lot of musicians. But, I also need to trick members into going on tour for months on end and living on deprivation. So, it's a give and take."
"Are you angry?" I ask.
"No, not angry," he replies. Then a few moments later, he sighs, "Sad, sure. I miss most of those kids."
STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT
The absence of Strano and the emergence of Terricloth's melancholy were put in the forefront of Bad Ideas' follow up, 2011's The Anarchy and the Ecstasy. On that record, for the first time ever, Terricloth played lead guitar. "I had to be more focused on that record," he says. "I had to play guitar and I'm not that great at guitar. There was a lot more focusing on my hands."
By design, Anarchy was a more reflective, somber album than what the band had released in the past. Instead of gleefully getting chased by the cops, they watched their own reflection drift by in the Raritan River. Instead of championing the success of civil rights leader Paul Robeson, they pondered (and sort of agreed with) the increasingly intense paranoid thoughts of Philip K. Dick.
Tellingly, the album opens with one World/Inferno's newer masterpieces, "I am Sick of People Being Sick of My Shit." The title tells you all you need to know. Still, while heavy piano keys pound in the background, Terricloth disperses brutal slaps in the form of the lyrics "Your cut is nothing because I gave it away!" and "Hope is motion, man. If you ain't into this, then we're real done with it."
Still, the band soldiered on with a reduced, and mostly brand new, membership. At times, they appeared with as few as five members.
In 2012, World/Inferno went on two extended tours with long running UK pop-punk act, The Adicts. During that tour, World/Inferno leaned heavily on songs from The Anarchy. Ever the showmen, the band sounded great. But, with five members on stage, they didn't quite have the boom they had in years prior, and had begun to play a more nuanced, textured set. The sets were intimate, but with so few people in the band, and new faces seemingly cropping up every five shows, the fear had begun to gather that World/Inferno were in danger of flaming out.
Terricloth reflects on the tour. "The Anarchy and Ecstasy, we were in quite a flux. We really had to pull it together. Members had quit so unexpectedly."
Then, just when the band needed to rally, things got worse. During the third to last show of the Adicts - World/Inferno tour, "The Adicts took issue with the fact that I clearly drink and do drugs," Terricloth says. "So, we got into an argument about that. I was like, 'Man! The name of your band is The Adicts! Then their drummer, Kid, swung at me and we got into a scuffle. No one got hurt, but the next day we were off the tour. It was two more shows! It couldn't wait two more shows?!"
The fact is, Terricloth does do drugs. He doesn't snort anything, because he says that would damage his voice. Also, he doesn't seem like he wants to be the standard bearer for substance use either. Rather, it seems like it's no big thing worth getting one's knickers in a twist over. "I don't want to deny anything," he explains. "If I had a government job, no, I would not be able to hang. I'm the singer in a rock band, of course I do drugs."
Though, he adds several caveats. "Drugs are not a good thing and I don't really do that many drugs. It's not a lifestyle choice and I don't spend money on it. If people come and give me drugs, certainly I'll do drugs. I like pharmaceutical grade morphine because it knocks me out. I'm not promoting it in any way, it's just something to do some days."
After the punch heard round the world, World/Inferno played a basement and that was how the band ended the tour: Down to just a few members, ejected from another band's good graces and 800 miles from home.
OL' RED EYES IS BACK
Following the band's tour breakdown, World/Inferno (at that point, mostly Terricloth, Sandra Malak and Benjamin Kotch) retreated back to New York. "I was discombobulated," Terricloth says. "Benjamin Kotch and Sandra were there and I couldn't have gotten through it without them. They saved the day."
Although for the past years World/Inferno had suffered membership decline, it seemed to many fans that the repeated breakdowns might cause an artistic decline in the band, or at the very least, a loss of enthusiasm.
But just when it seemed that World/Inferno were merely licking their wounds, Terricloth rebuilt Inferno's studio unit with an almost entirely new lineup. Just Terricloth and Malak remained from the old guard. In addition to Matt Landis who had been around since 2008, he added Francis Moran on guitar, Leslie Wacker on alto sax, Rebecca Schlappin on violin and Mora Precarious on drums.
And then, they released a new EP on Silver Sprocket Records accompanied by a comic book by Mitch Clem which featured several classic Inferno tales, including a brawl between the band and Snapcase, which inadvertently, was a predecessor to The Adicts smash up. Yet while the comic focused on "classic Inferno," the record was entirely new.
"The Faster You Go The Better You Think" featured the band built back up to seven people, ripping through a muscular, driving song. Back in his prankster character, Terricloth lets out a joyous howl "Decisions make themselves, you've slowed down!" And then he fortifies the dismissal with his own personal mandate "Go Faster! Think Better!"
The song slams. Whereas Anarchy was a moment of self-reflection and melancholy musing, "The Faster You Go" is a battle cry. The band are not investigating intricacies of relationships. They are not thinking about what was. They are throttling full-speed ahead and getting quicker and quicker. And more powerful.
It's doubly telling that the EP ends with "Pickles and Gin," a phrase that hasn't been used since your grandma was dating and essentially meant, "everything is going just great." Along a bubbly, pagan-celtic hop which calls back to their earliest releases (and which sort of references Dexy's), Terricloth coos "Everything is pickles and gin, everything is how it's always been!"
As I speak to him, Terricloth seems invigorated. Not only has the lineup who recorded the EP remained intact for the tour‚??suggesting a cohesion within the band which had been missing for a few years‚??but Terricloth has made amends with Inferno's co-founder, Scott Hollingsworth. On top of that, for the tour, Hollingsworth is handling piano duties, meaning that for the first time in over a decade, "The Original World/Inferno" is playing together.
"All it took was running into him at a restaurant," Terricloth explains. "We had 12 years to cool off."
"I certainly hope that I'll be doing this the rest of my life," Terricloth continues. "Sometimes, I'll be like, well if one more person quits, I certainly can't be doing this the rest of my life. In a selfish way, I cannot imagine Tuesday nights at a dive bar ever again. It's not the money, it's that no one would be there‚??it would be embarrassing. If I keep making music, it will always be World/Inferno. I'm just deliriously happy to be doing what I'm doing."
As Terricloth announces his victory (and it is a victory), his voice betrays the slight scratch that has been slinking around in it all evening. The first opening act starts playing, and Terricloth dismisses himself to prepare for the upcoming set. Unlike Sinatra, who was berating everyone within ear shot when his cold threatened the show, Terricloth does seem deliriously happy.
The show opens with The Stolen Babies, a band fronted by an incredibly pretty goth girl that blends Evanesence-style metal with more death metal influences. It's a little rougher than most Inferno acts, but the crowd receives it well. Then, in typical Inferno style, the second opener is completely different. Rasputina, composed of two women and a man all dressed in Victorian era frocks and girdles, take the stage. Two of them play cellos whole the third thumps away on percussion while all three sing about giants, ghosts, and Dickinson-type stuff. It's weird and wonderful and works well to balance the nasty growls of The Stolen Babies.
And then, The World/Inferno Friendship Society take the stage‚??without Terricloth. Mora Precarious takes a lumbering, heavy crack on her drums while the rest of the band remain silent. Then a second and third, each quicker than the next. The whole band joins in on the thumping, sounding like a gigantic jack-in-the box being wound. Buh-da-da-dump! Then slightly quicker, slightly louder. Buh-da-da-dump! Quicker, louder. Buh-da-da-dump!! The crowd is now stomping to the beat. Quicker! Louder! Buh-da-da-dump!!! Cheers roar out across the crowd. Even quicker! Even louder! BUH-DA-DA-DUMP!!!! BUH-DA-DA-DUMP!!!!! BUH-DA-DA-DUMP!!!!!!
Terrilcoth slides onto the stage. His torso is tilted on a 45-degree angle. One hand swings around a bottle of open wine like it's a scepter. A wide grin, slightly off-kilter, slides up his face. He grabs the microphone and calls out "Hello Philadelphia! We! Are! The! World! Inferno! Friendship!"
There is a minuscule break after the word "friendship." That all important syllable, the call to arms, that bridge from ignition to balls-out sprint is at hand.
Jack opens his mouth‚?¶ and he nails it! He nails it, baby. He nails it like no one has ever nailed it before. He nails it like a golden railroad spike. He nails it straight through the Devil's forehead and out the Devil's ass. POW!
"SOCIETYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!" tears through the room and the crowd erupts. The syllable is long, thick, powerful, and vibrant. It is perfect. There is yelling from the crowd, there is dancing everywhere, there is anarchy.
And, anchored by that one perfect, starting gun syllable, the band rampage onward. You could have left right then fully assured that the show killed, but if you did, you'd be missing out on one hell of a performance.
The band are at a full nine members and are as powerful as they've ever been. The woodwinds give them a surging energy. The violin gives them a haunting backdrop. The keys give them a whimsy that is threatening and enticing. The bass gives them a bouncing hop. The guitar gives them a slashing strike.
And Terricloth sounds phenomenal. That scratch is entirely gone, replaced by his full, clean, earnest voice. The band rip through their entire catalogue. The room destroyers from Red Eyed Soul tear the place down. The danceable ballads from Addicted to Bad Ideas draw couples together. Even songs from The Anarchy and The Ecstasy are given their fair due. But where they used to be somber and reflective, they are now slam-dancers and arias‚??big and broad, as forceful as anything written by the group who once, and still do, call out "Don't lose your nerve! Do not go straight! You must testify or I'm going to come to your house to punch you in the mouth!"
The show culminates with "The Faster You Go, The Better You Think." As Terricloth calls out "Go Faster! Think Better!" the crowd calls back, getting louder and louder with each refrain. The band is tight as a hell and Terricloth sounds like an angel.
On the song's final refrain, Terricloth marches to the front of the stage, leans over, and howls out in his loudest voice, "GO FASTER! THINK BETTER!" As he's there, the colored house lights reflect off his pupils making it seem like, just for a moment, that his eyes are a bright, glowing crimson.