During Halloween, every house in Brooklyn's Little Poland neighborhood glows with leering jack-o'-lanterns. Ghouls and hags peer through the curtains of the houses, swigging strong potions made from gnarled roots, as packs of fierce, sharp-toothed children wage egg-wars throughout the streets. This is the time of year when chaos -- the great abyss of primordial matter out of which the universe evolves -- exerts ultimate authority over prudence and sensibility. So it's not wholly surprising that the World/Inferno Friendship Society
formed in Little Poland on Halloween 1997, and only a little more shocking that the band's creation was provoked by a visitation from the Giant Cat (a vodka-swilling figure who, according to the group, sometimes rises from chaos wearing a large, striped hat). Since that Halloween, the Society has stayed true to the musical spirit of the feline figure and gained a shadowy following of strange and wonderful fans who are likely to breathe fire and pop joints out of sockets. But the delight of the Society lies less in its spectacle than in its vivacious concoction of Gypsy punk. The group's fourth full-length, Just the Best Party
, opens with "Zen & the Art of Breaking Everything in the Room," which bears a resemblance to impish punks the Toy Dolls if that combo were backed by a Bulgarian wedding band. "Friend to the Friendless" is a sinister duet between lead singer Jack Terricloth and bass player Yula Beeri that strolls past Edith Piaf, takes a left turn at Kurt Weill, and stops in the soup kitchen behind CBGB's. The effervescent punk outburst "Peter Lorre" pitches the decadent pride of an old movie monster against the rage of Zeus, while "The Naughty Little Rat Makes New Friends" finds Terricloth singing about breakups at breakneck speed. Meanwhile, the band -- comprised of mandola, accordion, guitar, percussion, clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone -- spins around him like a carousel. As with every Society show, the album ends with a riotous welcome, "All the World Is a Stage (Dive)," in which Terricloth salutes the clowns who are brave enough to step onstage and make the world fall down laughing. The World/Inferno Friendship Society performs on Wednesday, April 17, at Cafe Du Nord with DJs Margo and Sage from "Dark Sparkle" opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 861-5016.
In 1976, the smell of burning rubber clung to Akron, Ohio, like an ocean breeze. There, in a landscape dominated by tire manufacturers, dive bars, and Bee Gees fans, a handful of rebels glommed onto new records by Blue Cheer and the New York Dolls the way drowning men reach for water wings. Two of those brave souls took over a dive in the basement of a men's "health club" just across the street from the Goodyear plant and renamed it the Crypt. The venue's first show featured several Akron-area bands, including the Dead Boys, the Bizarros, and the club managers' own group, the aptly named Rubber City Rebels. (The second show featured two then-little-known groups called Devo and Pere Ubu.) Today, the Crypt is recognized as the first punk rock club in the Midwest, but at the time there was no classification for what the venue's owners were doing in their stinky little basement. Still, some important people noticed: The Village Voice fawned over From Akron, a split 7-inch with the Bizarros and the Rubber City Rebels; David Bowie and Iggy Pop sang Devo's praises; and the New York punk world ate up the Dead Boys. As for the Rebels, the group eventually migrated to Los Angeles and signed to Capitol at the urging of the Knack's Doug Fieger. Finally released in 1980, the band's self-titled debut was pure Akron -- fast, crass, gritty, and none too long-headed. Songs like the high-school-bimbo-bashing anthem "Young and Dumb," the super-wimp power ballad "Gonna Be Strong," and the ubiquitously snotty and ghoulish "Childeaters" would've been embraced by fans of the Dictators and the Ramones, but the Rebels were situated amongst L.A. acts like the Plimsouls, Oingo Boingo, and X. The group was quickly forgotten -- until recently, when young bands such as the Candy Snatchers, the Bobbyteens, and Jackpot began covering its songs. It was only a matter of time before the Rebels rereleased their catalog and hit the road for some long overdue adulation. Certainly, no gearhead worthy of his tattoos should miss this show. The Rubber City Rebels perform on Thursday, April 18, at the Justice League with the Briefs and the Bobbyteens opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 289-2038.