Saxophonist Peter Hess and singer Jack Terricloth, both bearing with maniacal grins, stepped to the front of the stage to greet the undulating crowd. With three drum sticks between them, they joined drummer Brian Viglione in pounding out the opening beat to "Tattoos Fade"—The World/Inferno Friendship Society's call-to-arms—on a well-worn tom tom. Snarlingly reminding the audience that they'd "do better living more and commemorating less," Jack Terricloth inspired spontaneity in the pit.
The World/Inferno Friendship Society arrived at South Burlington's well known Higher Ground nightclub on Nov. 6, 2008. To this writer's surprise, the crowd gathered long before doors opened, and the second admittance was allowed, the line to show tickets and IDs stretched through the lobby. Opening band, The Dig, provided an upbeat set of indie rock with a twist. Some attendees, anxious to see the main attraction, danced and goofed off in the room. When singer Jack Terricloth and bassist Sandra Malak appeared in the V.I.P. balcony, stars-struck fans waved enthusiastically. The musicians looked adoringly at their fans, toasted their wine glasses, and waved graciously.
When you've only seen a band or musician in their hometown (which for this band encompasses all of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and New Jersey), it's a revealing experience to witness an out-of-town gig. Thursday night was no exception. The band played a relentless set of songs both new and old, touching upon "M is for Morphine," "I Remember the Weimar," "Everybody Comes to Rick's," Thumb Cinema," "Addicted to Bad Ideas," all from the 2007 release Addicted to Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre's Twentieth Century. Older favorites were also played, including greatly received "Just the Best Party," "My Ancestral Homeland, New Jersey," "Jeffrey Lee," "Paul Robeson," and "Brother of the Mayor of Bridgewater" were just a few of those older favorites. While most of the fans knew the words to those songs, many of them were stumped when it came to the VERY old stuff..."All the World is a Stage(dive)" didn't garner any audience stage dives (for fear of getting kicked out), but Terricloth did throw himself onto the stage mid-song. The highlight of the show for me, personally, was "Cats are Not Lucky Creatures," a song about resiliency and independence as represented by the demeanor of cats. Although many of the kids didn't seem to know the classic, they shockingly screamed the lyrics of other songs along for most of the night.
The night saw more fancy stick-work from Hess and Terricloth, who synchronized a sort of drum hit-stick hit (like checking swords) in time to the intro of "M is for Morphine." The band was clearly more involved than they can be at hometown shows, which is ironic. Jack Terricloth's usually profound between-song banter was unfortunately watered-down by his inebriated state. Although missing the familiar handlebar mustache of Franz Nicolay, the group sufficiently compensated with newcomer Matt Landis, a menace at the keyboard. The Dresden Dolls' Brian Viglione powerfully filled the role of drummer and brought a whole new level of celebrity to the band.
The final question that arises from this experience you might ask would be, "Miss Harrison, was it worth it to drive three stinking hours each way to see a band you've already seen five times before?" And I would answer as such. "How anyone could turn down an opportunity to have the religious experience that is a World/Inferno show is beyond me. It's more than a band, it's a way of life. Sign the f*ck up."