Addicted To Bad Ideas
World/Inferno Friendship Society
Webster Hall, New York
January 9th 2009
Of all the shows I attend each year, none of them are even somewhat comparable to a typical World/Inferno Friendship Society performance. The band literally has risen to cult-like status, and has developed a dedicated fan base that treats the band’s live shows as one half punk rock gig, one half ballroom dance. On this night, the experience was even more impressive and unexpected, as the band presented an “operetta” based on their most recent record, 2007’s Addicted to Bad Ideas. The site was New York’s Webster Hall, a rundown East Village club that that was nicely outfitted for the event with an gaudy stage set up that featured mirrors, chandeliers, and props, as well as three large projection screens above the stage. The night started not with an opening band, but with a Peter Lorre film being played, backwards, on each of the three screens. Lorre, an actor who experienced his heyday in the 1930’s, is the main character of the record, and was (apparently) played by World/Inferno frontman Jack Terricloth.
The band began the show from behind a white screen, playing “Peter Lorre Overture” while
spray painting a few illegible words on the screen. Soon, the giant white sheet was drawn to reveal the very well dressed members of the band, who would go on to play all of the songs from Addicted to Bad Ideas. In between each song, the story of Peter Lorre played out on stage, with nearly every member taking his or her turn to deliver a monologue or act out a scene. The operetta seemed to chronicle Lorre’s life, as he fled Nazi Germany and earned great fame as an actor and radio voice in the United States. Many of the monologues were read as if on radio, as a red curtain was drawn across the stage to hide the rest of the set. Radio advertisements for Camel cigarettes even found their way into the production.
While the manner in which World/Inferno brought the Peter Lorre story to life was as ambitious as any concert production I have seen, the between-song banter hurt the flow of the show, and many of the monologues were often confusing and somewhat difficult to understand. Of course, Jack Terricloth had promised the story had no real plot at the start of the set, and Addicted to Bad Ideas is less structured and more vague than most “concept” albums. While the crowd never seemed all that interested in the story, their reaction to the songs was quite different, hundreds in attendance jumped, danced, and sang along to each track. As the band closed the set with “Heartattack ’64,” Terricloth and company did not leave the stage, but instead took a short break and promised to continue playing until the club kicked them out.
At this point, the show kicked into high gear, as the band moved relentlessly from song to song, trying to pack as much energy into the set as they possibly could. The crowd responded well, once again shouting, dancing, surfing, and generally inspriing a frezy that seemed to worry those standing off to the side and in the back. The band would play “Models,” “Just the Best Party,” “Cats,” “Me vs. Velocity,” “Tarot,” and “So Long.” The members of the band, and the stars of the production (who were one in the same on this night) then took a bow, and exited the stage. Overall, this World/Inferno show was much different than the previous two I had wintessed, if not simply because of the format of the show, but because of the size of the crowd. While the band had played a November show in front of 300 people in Boston, they sold out 1,400-capacity Webster Hall here. A thorough article about the show in the previous day’s New York Times undoubadly helped with this number, as did the fact that the band calls New York home. While World/Inferno Friendship society may never be “the next big thing,” and while they may never sell out venues outside of the East Coast, it is apparent their cult-like status is secure for years to come, and it will be very interesting to see where they go from here, and how they will try to out do themselves once again.