The first time I heard about DeVotchKa was on NPR, likely Fresh Air but I don't remember for sure. They described them as "The best band that you've never heard of." Since then they've provided much of the soundtrack for the smash-hit, indie-flick Little Miss Sunshine, and signed to ANTI- Records, a subsidiary of Universal. I feel like they've begun to achieve a level of success that most bands never see and aren't exactly "The best band that you've never heard of" anymore, just a great band.
Instead I think of that label for another band who just released a new album within a few weeks of DeVotchKa: The World/Inferno Friendship Society. They've been one of my absolute favorite bands for quite awhile now and I've always been a little astonished that more people don't know about them. Even my frequent attempts to sell people on them are usually met with indifference. So, allow me to write it instead.
World/Inferno run with a punk crowd. I found out about them because of a collaboration they did with Leftover Crack, some of the crustiest punks around, as well as a song they contributed to the Rock Against Bush compilation organized by Fat Mike of NOFX. A lot of what genre a band is classified under is dependent on what genre they identify with. Lead singer Jack Terricloth is an Anarchist through and through, which is most likely why they fit so well alongside punk bands. Still, punk might be one of the last descriptions a non-fan would use upon first hearing the band. The punk qualifier comes entirely from the lyrics of the songs and the beliefs and attitudes of the band members.
No, upon first listen someone's descriptors might be more along the lines of cabaret, circus, or even orchestral. Actually, they're often labeled using one of those words, preceded by the word punk; Punk Cabaret; a Punk Circus; or a Punk Orchestra. I'm happy with those labels, but if the word punk turns you off then wipe it completely from your mind. World/Inferno could easily fall under a slew of other classifications, so let's just stop trying to pigeonhole them to a title, shall we?
Instead, let's talk about the cult of World/Inferno. They are a movement that fits slightly awkwardly into any music scene it can and then seeks out and converts all those who feel a bit out of place. They preach the gospel of living a carefree life and having fun to the masses. Should you choose to listen is entirely up to you.
The first (and only) time I saw them live was when they toured with Against Me and Cobra Skulls. "What an amazing line-up!" I thought. Of course, I quickly realized as Cobra Skulls began to play that this was not an ideal situation. The masses of teenage girls that Against Me had recently cemented as "fans" because of one hit single on the radio stations stood grumpily with their arms crossed. It sort of ruined the great set that they played, but I just hoped that World/Inferno would go off a little better.
As they began to play, a smile instantly formed on my face. It was wonderful, but all the finicky audience members didn't seem to think so. I looked over at the right of the stage and spotted a group of six or seven people, decked out in suits and dresses like they were at a fancy dinner party. They were dancing with each other, yelling out lyrics, and pumping their fists in the air. I wasn't about to let this awful crowd ruin another band's set so I quickly made my way through the crowd until I was with my fellow Inferno fans. One turned to me, we exchanged a knowing smile and shouted the lyrics to each other, then focused our attention back on the band.
After they finished playing I thanked this impromptu group I'd joined for helping redeem the night from this terrible crowd. I've come to realize that's what World/Inferno does. Bring people together. I mean, they have Friendship Society right there in their name. Now, Against Me went on to work the crowd into such a frenzy that the arms-crossed individuals who ruined others nights before had their own nights ruined -- They couldn't handle the hot, sweaty punks being shoved into them with fists in the air -- but had that not occurred my concert experience would have still been saved by the Cult of Inferno.
You might think of the word "cult" as a bad thing, but it can easily mean something very different. This troupe of musicians with probably 30 rotating members and at least 10 on stage at once travels the world spreading exactly what I've always felt. Life isn't about a job and taxes and bills and school and stress and house payments and everything else. It's about the moments in between, filled with fun and merriment. I'll just let Jack Terricloth himself say it.
If money is all you want, then
money's all you'll get
I'd rather be drunk and in love
Let's not get mean about the big stuff
You know I never cared
Only Anarchists Are Pretty
Canonize Philip K. Dick, OK