Live Review: Culture Abuse @ Black Cat — 12/4/19

Culture Abuse promo
Culture Abuse (Photo by Barbara Georges)

“Wish I could ride a bike, I’d ride it home to you”

Right at the stroke of 8pm, the advertised starting time for the night’s bill, Culture Abuse frontman David Kelling raspily uttered those opening lyrics to the band’s latest single “Goo,” cutting through the pre-show chatter with an authoritative, yet warm, vocal solo intro at Black Cat on Dec. 4. After letting the last word hang in the air for a moment, Culture Abuse kicked off full-throatedly, immediately bringing the chunky guitars and infectious hooks that have made their records a must-have for any millennial punk rocker’s collection.

Already the large upstairs space at Black Cat was near capacity, unusual for an opening act in a three-band bill, but not surprising when you consider the critical and commercial success this northern California fivesome has achieved during the span of their adolescent career.

Donning what can only be described as a “Manhattan Chic Chef Jacket” and a ratty baseball cap, David Kelling related smashingly to the crowd with his deeply personal songs, laissez-faire (read: stoned) demeanor, and ridiculous between-songs banter, which included randomly dedicating tunes to common names like ‘David’ or ‘Aaron,’ and lying repeatedly about playing a Sublime cover.

With a setlist of only seven songs, and clocking in at just under half an hour in the limelight, Culture Abuse made sure that every second counted. Although this was one of their last stops on a grueling, months-long tour, you certainly wouldn’t have been able to tell based on the ferocity of their live performance. Dripping with as much energy as perspiration, guitarists Nick Bruder and John McCarthy dazzled with interweaving melodies and crunchy chords, while drummer Ross Traver and bassist Shane Plitt pushed the pace with an attacking rhythmic spectacle.

Stream Culture Abuse’s setlist from the Dec. 4 show at Black Cat on Spotify:

By the time they got halfway through the set with fan favorite “Dream On,” off the band’s critically acclaimed debut album Peach, Culture Abuse had full control of the room. Even the most cynical among the back-of-the-room dwellers couldn’t help but nod their heads along to the rash vocal melody and blasting guitars that mark that singular monument to sonic greatness.

I stuck around for the headlining act, The Menzingers (spoiler alert — they rocked too), but as I left the venue at the end of the night, I thought back to those opening lyrics to Culture Abuse’s “Goo.” I can ride a bike! Why didn’t I bike here? Where is my goddam Uber??

Find more Culture Abuse at the band’s website.

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