World/Inferno Friendship Society - Live in Brooklyn (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

World/Inferno Friendship Society

Live in Brooklyn (2014)

live show

The fact is World/Inferno Friendship Society’s Hallowmas show served as something bigger than just an annual celebration. It’s no secret that since 2007’s Addicted To Bad Ideas the band has struggled with its lineup and some inner-band turmoil. That’s nothing new for the band of course, but for one reason or another, that particular stress seemed to weigh heavily on frontman Jack Terricloth, who made it the focus of 2011’s The Anarchy and The Ecstasy. The band seemed to regroup around 2012 or so, and 2013’s Hallowmas found the band rebuilding their ranks again, growing from a relatively slim 5-piece to their more standard baseball team sized ranks. Now with founding member Scott Hollingsworth back in their ranks, the band took the stage at Brooklyn’s the Wick on October 31 with an impressive nine-piece crew and, to a degree, transformed before the crowd’s very eyes. That is to say, at their record release party for This Packed Funeral the band demonstrated that they where they were once young upstarts, they are now maestros.

Seemingly by design, the band took quite a different approach than 2013’s Hallowmas. The 2013 show was rife with pomp and circumstance: a hearse greeted visitors outside the venue, inside the venue lay the body of Grace Taliscious, and the grand finale involved hauling the coffin on stage while a full choir backed Terricloth.

But with the stage having been set around Taliscious last year (who is the focus of Packed Funeral) this time, instead of focusing on theatrics, the band focused almost exclusively on their music. It was with good reason.

For the most part, when punk bands play live, they let energy overtake technique resulting in fiery, berserk live performances. It’s a strategy that works and you need look no further than any live Ramones, Stooges, or Circle Jerks record for proof of that. But, While WIFS certainly is a punk band, they never have been a standard punk band. Throughout the band’s massive two-and-half hour performance, they harnessed the same energy and explosiveness of first wave punk, but in lieu of tearing themselves apart mid-song, displayed their true skill and talent for hitting the mark every single time.

Terricloth was in top form. Despite being in punk rock for nearly thirty years, the fact is, his voice has never sounded better. On top of that, he achieved a sort of Barbershop-crooner style confidence and power. When the band played songs like “The Devil’s Ball,” he reveled in the rich, lower end notes, apparently appreciating the timbre of his own voice as much as the audience. When the band hit the more jittery songs like “One for the witches,” Terricloth rode the jerking rhtym like it was straight four-four banger, hitting every mark on time with power and precision. Whereas in days prior, when the band ripped though songs like “All the world is a stage dive,” have the excitement was seeing if Terricloth could keep up with the thrashing beat. Not so, now. Now the appreciation and thrill of the band comes not in its unpredictability, but it’s ability to perform things that used to be daring with apparent ease, grace, and enthusiasm. Where the band used to be axe-men, swinging and chopping at everything as they tore forward, now they are surgeons, moving with speed, agility, and a precision that is exciting to watch.

Of course, it was a thrill to see Hollingsworth back in the band and his effect is palpable. The band has had a number of ivory-ticklers, each with their own merits, but Hollingsworth is the master of merging the pagan-folk rhythm with new world soul. When the band played the early songs, there seemed to be a sort of Wicker Man lace thrown on top of the procession. When they played the newer material from Packed Funeral, which is both more ornate and more ambitious than their previous work, Hollingsworth brought a composer’s ear for melody and dissonance to the ensemble.

And that’s where the band truly shows how much they’ve grown. Playing the majority of Packed Funeral WIFS showed that now more than ever, they are interested in diving into composition and execution equally. The newest songs have the inherent melody and construct of Anarchy, with most new songs having multiple levels, able to be dissected into various mechanisms or taken as a single giant wall of sound. But, the ne songs also have the firepower of Red Eyed Soul. These are songs that are both crafty and muscular. To that end, bassist/vocalist Sandra Malak has continued to increase her vocal contributions. The Caballe to Terricloth’s Bulsara, Malak has professional training as an opera singer and it shows. She zips up and down musical scales like its nothing and in the great romantic style, has the guts and ingenuity to string out a note or line as long as she can, focusing on timbre and color of her voice. The fact is, unlike so many other groups, Terricloth and Malak are both fantastic singers in their own right, each with a different style, and when they combine, neither seems to compete for the spotlight. Instead, their styles build off each other which seems to be the foundational aspect of Packed Funeral.

World/Inferno Friendship Society has gone through many, many stages and even more lineup changes. As the Hallowmas 2014 made clear, they are now in their virtuosos phase- completely able to perform daring feats and willing to do so… with gusto. The theme of the show as Terricloth essentially stated was, in contrast to his earlier songs, to not hold grudges against friends. You could take that to mean that with the burial of Talicious, WIFS has finally discarded its last few years of strife and emerged stronger, more proficient, and frankly, weirder than ever.

The show opened with Emilyn Brodksy who brought a sort of Moldy Peaches vibe when she opened the show. Taking detailed, rich lyrics and setting them to a light, whimsical backdrop, she won the crowd with her set. While such a style can veer a little too close to cutsie-wootsie, Brodsky was deft enough to whip in barbed (and honest) lyrics about her own life, as well as the hard facts of the world, such as her song about how some dudes will stick with women simply because the sex is good. It was just the right amount of niceness and viciousness, though I’ll admit, she lost me late in the set. The band performed a cover of the Misfits’ “Skulls” and Brodsky introduced playing the song as “being against the very core of my being.” Boo to that! If you can’t appreciate how we Paisans express ourselves, just stay away. We swing for the fences. No shame. Still, that minor misstep aside, Brodsky set was as fun as it was thoughtful… plus it helped that behind every cute turn of phrase there was something mean and nasty.