Culture Abuse


The artwork adorning the Culture Abuse T-shirts and hoodies for sale at the merch table depicts harsh wire fences, but the San Francisco Bay Area five-piece is at heart a party band, and the price list placed alongside the merch states that booze and weed are accepted methods of payment.

Second of three tonight at The Deaf Institute, sandwiched between Muskets and Tigers Jaw, Culture Abuse’s four musicians are ready to go as fifth member, singer David Kelling, who has cerebral palsy, slowly negotiates the stage steps in dark sunglasses.

The band gets underway with a version of ‘Chinatown’, the lead-off track from last year’s debut album Peach. With bottle of beer in hand and camera dangling from a neck strap, Kelling comes across initially like a disoriented Shaun Ryder impersonator, but his vaguely talky vocals and yelps hit the mark, and the inane chorus buries itself into our brains.

The two guitars contribute roughly equally in the melodic din, but there’s a nice contrast on show with one guitarist seemingly highly concentrated in order to play the trickier parts, and his long-haired and low-slung mate unshackled to chainsaw-riff and headbang away.

Recent single ‘So Busted’ is either a pointer towards a new direction away from the band’s garage-punk sound or merely a tender-hearted one-off before normal service resumes. Album number two will reveal the answer, but tonight the song pleases the slackers and stoners amongst us.

By now Kelling’s early performance anxiety is probably mostly gone, his sunglasses are off, and the band seems buoyed by the crowd’s lively response to the rousing ‘Dream On’, which has the moshers powered up and afforded the room to bounce around like atoms.

Kelling reels off a series of expletives to express his satisfaction with the venue, notably the wallpaper. Maybe he’s questioning whether he really needs whatever substances may be in his system when the surroundings are quite this lovely. Ha, OK, probably not, but surely few would argue against this gig space being amongst the finest-looking out there.

“This is a shit show,” quips Kelling as it transpires a guitar has suffered a broken high E string, following earlier technical issues involving the bass amp and the hi-hat stand. Quickly backtracking and conscious of not putting a downer on the set, Kelling comments about the band’s love of travel and sound-checking and all that goes into the touring life.

The set ends after ‘Jealous’, perhaps slightly earlier than planned, with Kelling launching his microphone over the speaker-support bar high above the stage, doing so with the panache and accuracy of an NBA Hall of Famer scoring a three-point basket. Any disgruntled groans from the venue staff whose task it will be to retrieve the mic are drowned out by crowd appreciation for the set as the band leaves the stage.

The audience doesn’t seem entirely convinced by the performance, though. I feel the same way, but the tunes are pretty great and I for one am happy to give these Californians the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn’t be surprised if the band was back to top form for the Reading and Leeds festivals at the weekend.

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Steve Jones

Apart from about five years in total, I've always lived in Manchester. Shame about the weather and lack of beach, but I do like it here. My all-time favourite gig would have to be The National at the Academy in about 2010, although I did get Matt Berninger's mic cable wrapped around my neck (that was a close one). My guilty pleasures include the music of Bruce Springsteen, and I also felt a bit bad for feeling such joy at seeing Counting Crows live in the early 2000s. I recommend Lifter Puller, a rather obnoxious and unpleasant-sounding band that I can't seem to get enough of, even though they are long disbanded. Amongst my Silent Radio gigs, I was blown away by John Murry. I'll let you know if anything tops that one.