They Just Wanna Get By, If That’s All Right: Culture Abuse at Middle East

Cambridge concertgoers found themselves caught in a sonic tidal wave as DIY punk act, Culture Abuse, flooded the stage of the Middle East Nightclub on June 21st. Crashing into the east coast from their home base of Los Angeles, California, the west coast punk-rockers spared no time in kicking off what turned into an endlessly energetic evening as enthusiastic fans hurled themselves into the fray, limbs flying as soon as the first chord was struck.

Culture Abuse, who have been quickly making a name for themselves in the underground rock scene, released their cult favorite, Peach, in 2016 to almost universal acclaim. The melodies were undeniably catchy, and the lyrics seemed to perfectly capture the anxieties that accompany living with the current socio-political state of America and, for that matter, living in general. Now, with their more positive and “sunshiney” 2018 sophomore release, Bay Dream, they are only growing in popularity. And after finally having the opportunity to witness them live, it’s all the more apparent why.

There are shows, and then there are shows that remind you why you go to shows in the first place. Sometimes this is because of the artists’ prowess at stage presence, their passion, or their attitude. Sometimes it has to do with something far more special. In Culture Abuse’s case, it was both. As performers, they know how to excite a crowd, and the energy they exude is just as infectious as the riffs they churn out. They aren’t afraid to let themselves go and take the crowd with them. So when guitarist John Jr. invited his mother on stage during what turned out to be her first time seeing her son play, it made for a moment that was all the more intimate and honest. 

What is perhaps even more honest is band frontman David Kelling’s fearlessness and perseverance in the face of his own physical challenges. Though he struggles with cerebral palsy, and the physical limitations and insecurities that accompany it, he pulls no punches. Clad in camo with an old film camera slung about his neck, Kelling flailed in all directions, at times swinging the microphone around with little regard for his surroundings. His impassioned performance was both entertaining and endearing and reflected a certain courage that will hopefully inspire others who struggle with similar obstacles.

There are shows and then there are shows, and Culture Abuse put on one hell of a show. Hitting the Middle East’s stage on this year’s solstice, they kicked off what will hopefully be one hell of a summer, and they’re providing the vibes to make it such. I feel like I speak for everyone at the Middle East that night when I say I can’t wait till their next appearance around these parts and that their records will be in my heavy rotation until that point. I won’t worry, just be right back, guys.

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