I am not one of those people who consider high school the best years of their lives — far from it. If pressed, I would have to admit that every single year since I graduated from St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School has been better than the four years I spent inside the grey brick walls, including the year that I got E. Coli and a divorce. Anxiety dreams wherein I have to go back to high school leave me shaking and drenched in sweat. But underneath all the overwhelming social failure and academic anxiety there were bright, shining moments, a few memories that remind me it wasn’t all suffering and angst. There was something about this show by the World/Inferno Friendship Society and the Weirdies that reminded me of the very best parts of those difficult years. The parts where I listened to pop punk and ate Blizzards in the back seats of horrible cars and made some of the most enduring friendships of my life.
I arrived at Lee’s Palace as part of a posse of awesome ladies, writers and rabble-rousers all, to stand in the front row in support of our femme-in-arms, ass-kicking frontwoman Minx. It’s wonderful how we meet people. I became aware of the Weirdies through drummer Stacey Case, who is the chairman of the Pillow Fight League in Toronto and runs the Trash Palace, a magical underground cinema, out of his printing studio. I saw them perform and had no idea that the striking woman with the sharp hair and sharper cat-eye glasses would eventually become a fast friend. Rocking out during this show wasn’t just a gesture of support for friends, however. The Weirdies play fierce, fun garage rock with a generous dollop of punk on top that makes me feel as giddy as a kid. This is music to raid your parents’ liquor cabinet and kiss boys who taste like liquorice to; it’s catchy, trashy and perfectly satisfying. Minx’s vocals are precise and broken, crackling during “I’m Going Crazy” and giving the audience a sugar rush during “Party Over Here.” Guitarist Brad Reinhardt adds a beach boy/rockabilly charm and Stacey Case looks like a bespectacled octopus behind the kit, long limbs flailing. Both gents add warm backing vocals that complement Minx’s trills and wails perfectly. They remind me strongly of pop punk/“cuddlecore” band Cub, a group I adored when sugar was just being replaced by alcohol as my favourite high. It’s a wonderful thing to have friends who rock.
After we showered the Weirdies with audible, as well as liquid, applause, World/Inferno Friendship Society took the stage and put on one hell of a headlining performance. This Brooklyn, NY circus punk monstrosity got the whole floor moving immediately, horns, piano and violin grinding out up-tempo, sinister cabaret. Vocalist Jack Terricloth, with his fine features and grey suit, was the spitting image of Pee Wee Herman (minus the lipstick, plus some whiskey). He immediately began to harass a man in the audience for wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag, and kept up the confrontational banter throughout the show. They bill themselves as anarcho-punk, and it was clear they were as interested in challenging the audience as they were making them dance like fiends. Their complex, layered sound reminded me of the darker, stickier parts of my late teens, the moments where neglect and wanderlust took me places I shouldn’t have been, and how I became more broken and better for the experiences. World/Inferno grind out a sound that’s cheerfully nightmarish, an invitation to somewhere that’s a little bit dangerous and a whole lot of fun. In a post-apocalyptic cityscape, if the Tank Girls and Road Warriors pick up instruments, as well as weapons, it would sound like World/Inferno.