Last Saturday night, Punknews threw its first ever concert: The Punknews Summer Soiree in Philadelphia. The audience was treated to amazing performances by World/Inferno Friendship Society, Posers, Crazy and the Brains, and Pushin' It 2 the Limit. Check out our re-cap and some pictures from the evening, below.
Reflections on The Punknews Summer Soiree
Words: John Gentile Pictures: Ginger Knight
The fact is, we’ve been trying to make the soiree happen for two and a half years. Every four months or so I would e-mail Adam White and run a list of dates past him. But, we never could seem to quite line up the three items that we needed to line up: Adam’s availability, the venues availability, and World/Inferno’s availability.
I knew I needed Adam at the soiree because one guy with a top hat yelling at people is an annoyance. Two or more people is a wonderful spectacle. I knew I wanted to use Philamoca off Spring Garden in Philly because 1) it was formerly a mausoleum; 2) it had a very high ceiling giving it a certain elegance; 3) it had a balcony; and 4) it was all ages. I knew I wanted World/Inferno to headline because they just might be the greatest punk band (or even greatest band) of all time.
So, when World/Inferno put out a cold call on the Internet saying “book us if you want us” I heeded the call. I called up Philamoca and by chance, they were open for the date we wanted! I practically demanded that Adam make the seven hour trip from Canada to Philly. Once he agreed I said, “oh, yeah, we will also be wearing costumes.” And then I said, “also, we will be doing a game show between two of the bands.” And then I said, “also, we will be doing a song and dance number to kick off the night.” I did not leave him room to demur.
So, with everything booked I took a step back and realized that not only had I never thrown a show before, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. In true Punknews style, I decided to tumble forward and gain momentum in my tumult so that either the end result would be an amazing show or a spectacularly explosive failure. It was either all or nothing.
For weeks ahead of time, I spent the evenings preparing: writing the trivia questions for the game show; getting out costumes put together; mixing the music for the show’s exclusive cassette; promoting the show through a series of increasingly bizarre posts; flyering the town; buying goodies for the audience; learning exactly what a “back line” is. (Disclaimer: I still don’t know what a back line is).
The point of the show being, we didn’t wan to have just another show. We wanted a soiree! Instead of something dark and grimy, we wanted something bright and flashy. If there’s one code we live by at Punknews, it is limitless enthusiasm. If there are two codes, the second is give in to whimsy.
So, thanks to very generous contributions by Anxious and Angry records, Alternative Tentacles Records, and Asian Man records, I made goodie bags to be distributed at the end of the show that included record totes, an exclusive flexi disc featuring the first new track by Ezra Kire, CDs, stickers, buttons, and shirts!
Eventually, after weeks of preparation, the day of the show rolled around and at 1pm sharp, Adam White rolled up my driveway fresh from Canada. I’ve “known” Adam for nearly ten years, but have never actually met him in person. How curious it was when I saw him in the flesh for the first time did it feel like we regularly hung out and this particular rendezvous was nothing out of the ordinary.
Initially, we had about four hours to get ready to head to Philadelphia, which included packing the van and preparing Inferno’s (fairly liquid) tour rider. So, we made the bets use of our time and decided to go get pizza and then drive to another state to go record shopping. We returned to my pad with 45 minutes to spare and spent the next ¾ of an hour frantically packing the van with all the stuff we needed.
We rolled up to the venue at about 5:15 and Inferno was already soundchecking. Their massive ranks demand a fair amount of sonic logistics so it was no small operation for the soundman to get them what they needed. Soon thereafter, as if by some miracle, the other bands showed up on time (something bands never do, I am told) and by 6:50 we were ready to go!
We must thank both Audrey Crash for being so helpful in keeping things moving along and KB Vickers of Teenage Bigfoot for running the door like a pro, even though he is at best, an amateur doorman.
We opened the doors at 7:00pm sharp and immediately started blasting 80s dancehall, to get people in the groove. As KB checked people in, I ran outside and started to distribute glow bracelets, paper tiaras, beads, and leis to the audience to let everyone know, “we came to get down.”
Meanwhile, Adam White and I strapped on our special suits- of which, I have no shame in saying were mainly constructed by my dear mother. Our respective get ups each consisted of: a top hat; a blue and white striped cane; white slacks with silver stripes; blue bow ties and cummerbunds; top hats; and a suit jacket with a gigantic Punknews “power p” emblazoned on the back.
And then, 7:30 hit. The dancehall music cut out. The lights went down. “Puttin on the Ritz” drifted across the speakers only for Adam and myself and I to take the stage just a Fred Astaire sang, “Have you seen the well to do up and down Park avenue…” We began to do our rudimentary (and laughable) attempt at dance steps… only for the music to suddenly scratch, soon after which, the instrumental version of DJ Kool’s “Let me clear my throat kicked in” with Adam and I immediately screaming into the microphones “Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump!” while we too were getting airborn. We then launced into a series of “Philadelphia, let me hear you screaaaam!” “When I say hey, you say ho!” and “When I say let’s, you say go!” as the instrumental to Biggie’s hypnotize kicked out of the speakers.
With the crowd sufficient hyped, Adam and I jumped off the stage and obscured it with a giant banner that read “Punknews.” From behind the banner, three voices yelled “Nazis, fuck off! Nazis, fuck off! Nazis, fuck off!” After the third “fuck off” Adam and I ripped the banner in half to reveal none other than Pushin it 2 the Limit in their space-age-football-player get ups! (Complete with life sized stuff tiger guarding the stage).
PI2TL ripped into their set and did not stop. Between each song, they yelled a battle cry like “Smashing through everything with your facehammer!” and “Totally Extreme, fuck yeah!!!” The power trio was on fire. Combining a love of classic punk with a hard charging, almost Motorhead approach, Pi2TL exemplify what is great about the genre- thinking outside the box, having fun, and maybe presenting a message. Bassist Audrey Crash slammed on the bass so the room shook. Guitarist Leta Gray shredded like a maniac, taking sonic cues form both Bad Brains and Slayer. Drummer Mike Smith, who in line with team uniform was also wearing a skirt, thrashed on the drums like nobody’s business. The set was wild, chaotic, and whimsical. I believed they finished their set with their hard charging number “The Greatest World’s Song Ever in the Whole Wide Fucking World” and after their rabid set, I think the audience agreed.
Immediately after the set ended, Adam White and I jumped on stage and began selling tickets for our raffle benefitting Saint Jude’s Children Hospital. The prize? An original painting by Jesse Michaels! After a short dancehall interlude, Jersey’s Crazy and the Brains took the stage, complete with xylophone in tow.
Singer Chris Urban was dressed in his trademark skipper’s hat and coat-of-many-flags. They kicked off their set with crashing, rumbling xylophone solo and immediately launched into wild style. Playing their biggest hits, including “Ice Cream,” “Good Boy,” and “Brain Freeze” the band blasted through about 12 manic songs. Crazy and the Brains excel at duality. They were able to convey a massively fun message while also pondering darker subject material – see “Good Boy” for an example.
Jeff Rubin was absolutely frantic on the xylophone breaking sticks right and left. Earnest Young shredded on the guitar all while acting as Urban’s hype man, walking the fine line between unbridled excitement and self awareness. Brett Miller, who is unquestionably the Paul Simonon of the 2000s, acted as counter point, keeping the band cool and tight. Drummer Jon Lango added the sheer manic energy so necessary to this band. And singe Chris Urban was unlike any other singer there is- a mix of Darby Crash and Pee Wee Herman- at once self destructive and gleeful. During the band’s set, they did an explosive cover of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” and despite the song’s gruesome subject matter, the band exhibited just why being alive is so great.
Frankly, the crowd was wowed so it was no easy task to follow that up. Never the less, Adam White and I immediately launched into a live version of the Punknews trivia game, “Punx Points” complete with homemade, spray painted podium. The only problem was that one of our two contestants didn’t show up!
How relieved were we when out of nowhere, an audience member named Andrew volunteered! We dragged him out to the front of the stage and I immediately began hitting Andrew and fellow contestant Ryan with trivia about the Clash, Malcolm McLaren, and to my great pleasure, Bow Wow Wow. They both did “pretty good.” And not only that, the audience shouted the answer when the contestants got it wrong. Both Ryan and Andrew were good sports and for their efforts were awarded a punk classic on CD, each.
And then it was time for hometown heroes Posers to take the stage. The band has been gaining momentum and it’s no wonder why. In line with the theme of the evening, singer Jade was decked out in an elegant cocktail dress and I believe what was a funeral veil. The band smashed into pretty much every song on their two EPs. Guitarist Rory Cain is a huge fan of every nook and cranny of UK punk’s first wave and his studies show- they guy ripped out lick after lick that could go toe to toe with any ’77 single you can find. Bassist Johnny Mick acted as foil to Cain, slamming out a heavy backbone to support Cain’s slicing.
Meanwhile, as she is wont to do, Jade flipped from character to character across the songs- sometimes she was a demented stalker following a mannequin, sometimes she was rolling around on the ground like psycho, and sometimes she was taking hard swipes at by-the-book punk with “Just another protest song.” Jade was animated, intense, and a little unhinged, which is pretty much exactly what punk- or any art- should be.
The band blasted through their set with no breaks in between resulting in a collection of songs that built momentum until they shattered apart at the end. You could tell by the audience’s cheers that they were down and that Posers frikkin killed it.
With the Posers set over, there was little left to do but award the Jesse Michael’s painting to the lucky ticket holder and sell a few of the exclusive cassettes we made just for the show. And after what seemed like just a few minutes, World/Inferno Friendship Society took the stage to their usual cadence… Bump-ba-da-da-dump! Ba-da-da-dump! Ba-dada-dump! Drummer Jess Townsend started the band’s battle cry, “Tattoos Fade” as singer Jack Terricloth took the stage, bottle of wine in hand. The intro was extended while Terricloth turned his back to the crowd and watched himself on the big screen. Until finally, he turned around and unleashed the song’s opening “Whooooaaaa-ooooo-OOOOOO-oooo!” while hundreds of hands raised up into the air in the band’s iconic claw gesture.
Straight up- Inferno sounded fantastic. The band’s current incarnation has been mostly solid for a number of years now and that bond has allowed them to really increase the band’s low end power. At times, they had the thunder of a full scale orchestra, booming across the crowd. But, despite their powerful legs, they charged ahead full throttle, keeping the punk spike in their music sharp as ever. Terricloth, for his part, still sounds fantastic. His voice has just the right amount of baritone timber combined with punk rock rawness that he at times, approaches the cracked frenzy of James Brown and at others, approaches the sagacity of Joe Strummer. And, we don’t even need to say it, but the guy’s stage performance is next to none. Taking aspects of vaudeville, CBGBs, and the Golden age of Hollywood, Terricloth seems to exist in all of those worlds and none of them at the same time- a sort of drifting ghost here to provide merriment with a touch of melancholy.
And we certainly must credit bassist Sandra Malak with adding her huge, soaring, operatic voice to the band. While Terricloth plays the part of a creature climbing from the depths to deliver his screed, Malak, with her beautiful voice seems to descend from above, to deliver a sermon to us mere mortals.
Also, yes, it was hot, It was very, very hot at the show. In fact, it was so hot alarm lights were going off due to the mere fact that the room’s cooling system was not prepared for such high temperature. That didn’t stop the band. They skipped form era to era. “Your Younger Man” was as propulsive as it ever was, while maintaining its romantic core. Songs off This Packed Funeral were given their full ambit of color. The album is probably the band’s most complex and this complexity- the interactivity of the band’s many instruments- really comes to life in the live setting. “I am sick of people being sick of my shit” was converted into a bouncing, sharp stomper that was at once Rogers and Hammerstein and Johanson and Thunders.
Even after their extended set, they came back to the stage and performed an extended encore, bashing out another 25 minutes of music. By the time the show ended, people were soaked. It looked like everyone had just got out of the pool, the condensation was so thick. And the whole time, Inferno mostly remained in their suits. If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it 100%- except inferno did it 125%. This band is unparalleled. What an amazing headliner. No one in the world could have given us what Inferno gave the crowd that night.
On the way out the door, Adam White and I distributed goody bags to damp, smiling people. The fact is, good vibes abounded. If you look around in these dark times, it appears that cynicism and hatred is taking over… but on the micro scale, at the show, I saw the complete, and total opposite. Joy and fun and whimsy and empathy beats the bad guys every time.
As Adam White and I helped cleaned up the confetti and abandoned glow bracelets and ripped banners and discarded bottles and lost papers and shredded tiaras, I realized that despite all that could have gone wrong, our crazy, crazy idea went off basically without a hitch. Simply amazing.
Also, with a slight tinge of sadness, I realized that with the Summer Soiree, the soiree mixtape, the Banned From the PC Mixtape, and the Flames reissue all wrapped up, for the first time in over 18 months, I have no long term project going on. I’m taking a bit of a break before digging back in, but also, the seeds of the Punknews Winter Wonderland are already germinating and it will be a doozy… thanks to you all and see you in six months…
Big thanks to:
Anxious and Angry Records: Check them out here!
Alternative Tentacles Records: Check them out here!
Asian Man Records: Check them out here!
And Pushin' It 2 the Limit! Check them out here!
And Crazy and the Brains! Check them out here!
And Posers! Check them out here!
And of course… WORLD/INFERNO FRIENDSHIP SOCIETY!!! Check them out here!