Crash Worship

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Today’s weird band is yet another suggestion from one of our greatest sources of weird band lore, our buddy Treiops, who also designed our bitchin’ double-neck guitar “W” logo. Treiops recently reminded us about a band he saw back in the ’90s called Crash Worship, which sort of took the whole neo-pagan tribal vibe espoused by events like Burning Man to its logical extreme. In fact, if I had to guess, I’d say most former members of the now-defunct Crash Worship (aka Adoración De Rotura Violenta, or ADRV) probably think Burning Man’s gotten pretty lame at this point. Too many safety rules. At a Crash Worship show, safety pretty much went out the window.

Crash Worship started in the mid ’80s in, of all places, San Diego, where a couple of percussionists named Markus Wolff and Simon Cheffins got together and started making music inspired by their shared love of early industrial/experimental bands like Throbbing Gristle and 23 Skidoo. Originally, the band was purely a studio project, but eventually, their live shows would grow to eclipse their recorded output—most of which is, to be honest, a lo-fi mess of post-punk/industrial jam sessions with lots of distorted guitar and tribal drums and not much in the way of recognizable songs.

But oh, those live shows. A Crash Worship concert might begin with the band entering the venue from the street, pushing its way through the audience with mobile drum kits and fire dancers, then assaulting the spectators with strobe lights, fake (or possibly real) blood, wine, whipped cream, ice cubes, smoke, green Jello, small fireworks and god knows what else. Two de facto frontmen, JXL and Fat Jack Torino, served occasionally as vocalists but mainly as “audience manipulators,” running through the crowd to hand out little gifts (fruit, hand percussion, etc.), exhort the wallflowers to get off their asses and dance, and rub various viscous substances on the half-naked bodies of any willing (or sometimes unwilling) participants. People got naked, people got dirty, people got injured. Mostly, the barriers between audience and performer broke down to the point where nearly everyone there felt like they were not so much at a show as participating in some kind of ancient ritual. “I reverted to a PRIMAL state,” is how one witness described it. Whether you believe that or not, it’s pretty clear that a Crash Worship show was a totally unique experience.

Throughout the ’90s, Crash Worship continued to perform throughout the U.S. and Europe, although their reputation for leaving behind a horrible mess meant that fewer and fewer venues were willing to book them. The band also went through numerous lineup changes, the most significant apparently happening in 1996 when Wolff and some other key members quit. After that, a newer member of the band named Quintron seems to have taken a more significant role—in one interview, he even referred to himself as the “leader” of the band, even though Cheffins, JXL and Fat Jack were still part of the group. Quintron’s elaborate puppet shows would now often serve as a prelude to the rest of the group’s show—puppet shows he later developed further with his partner, Miss Pussycat, as part of their New Orleans-based “swamp-tech” act.

By 1999, Crash Worship was finished, leaving a trail of blown minds and tamer projects by various ex-members in their wake. (See below for links to some of them.) Unfortunately, very little video of Crash Worship shows exists, and most of what’s out there is of pretty poor quality—although it’s probably impossible to capture the vibe at a Crash Worship show anyway. Video can’t breathe fire in your face and pour chocolate syrup down your back. Still, this clip gives you some sense of the chaos.



45 thoughts on “Crash Worship

  1. Shaun Stewart

    In 1997, or maybe 1998, they played Bricks in SLC. I cant remember the name of the opening band. But it started with the female singer performing with total disregard that every person withing arms length had their hands on her crotch. I wouldnt say for the whole set. but after the first person tried and didnt get kicked out.

    Then is was time for Crash worship. Banging drums, blowing tubas and trombones, wearing masks, Crash worship led a procession through the crowd towards the stage like some primal gypsy Mardi Gras. Among the procession were four shirtless men carrying a half naked girl covered with various fruits of which the crowd helped them selves with greedy hands (just the fruit, i think).

    After they got on stage, bikini clad girls stood above the crowd: twirling fire lanterns at times, squirting wine on the crowd at others, and after the crowd was thoroughly covered in wine, exploding feather pillows over the crowd.

    Towards the end, Crash Worship wouldn’t stop the concert. Eventually the club turned off the electricity to stop it. Crash Worship would have none of that. So they started there Mardi gras procession from the stage and led the audience out into the middle of the intersection in front of the club. Their they resumed playing there music for another 45 minutes or so with 200ish people encircling them. I would say it went until 3 or so in the morning The cops never came to my amazement.

    The next day, i spent hours removing a substance from my shoes that was a combination bird feathers mixed with wine smash under our feet the night before. And perhaps another six months trying to remove all the body glitter that followed us home to our upholstery.

    When people tell me about the best shows they have ever seen, they all pale in comparison to Crash Worship.

  2. Jane

    I saw them in the early 1990’s in Annapolis MD and was one of those “unwilling participants”- I was maybe 20? I was pulled out of the crowd -thrown to the ground and assaulted by some stranger. He dry humped me and kissed me. When I had hit the ground I was disorientated because I hit SO hard and just had not idea what was happening and could not get up off my back. My friend found me in all the smoke and noise and got me up and pushed the guy away.

    I wrote it off as my fault for going with my friends to a show.


    1. weirdestband

      That sounds awful. Sorry your experience with them took an ugly turn. Unfortunately that was probably true for many unwilling participants.

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  4. I saw Crash Worship around ’95 I think, in Austin Texas. It was an event that I will never ever forget and so many good friends were made there….the downside was; that after that “experience”, nothing else quite compared. There was a little band out of New Orleans called Machine Screw that tried to be like them, but couldn’t cut the mustard. Anyways I digress…I saw CW in nature, a beautiful piece of paradise called Rimers Ranch. It was an overnight camping experience with sweet creeks, water falls, caves, and acres of woods and prairie. I remember waiting for hours into the dark night for them to begin and I think they eventually started playing “marching circus style” after midnight from far far away from the actual site that they were expected to be, and eventually arrived at. There were hundreds of people (I think), waiting for them around a huge bon fire, it felt very pagan, hedonistic, wild, dangerous, and free. We were all half naked, dancing, some were twirling fire, and many wore homemade masks and costumes. All of this combined with the anticipation of the enormous tribal sound that was headed our way was almost unbearable. It was as if “something” was being conjured up. I remember feeling a little scared and very excited, freakishly overwhelmed. I ended up spending a lot of time in my cushy gypsy tent eating shrooms with friends and passers by, peering out at this amazing spectacle that we all created together with these barbaric drummers from another world. The next morning I remember many folks were getting ready to follow the band to the next show, somewhere far away from Austin. It was peaceful and beautiful in the camp, and all of us there knew for sure that we had witnessed something very very special that night. The Crash Worship cassette that was being passed around during this time in my life had a picture of Henry Darger’s “Vivian Girls” throwing a grenade into a crowd. It was a fun era to be young!

  5. omar

    I recall coming out of my office walking back to main floor,on that narrow entrance to backstage I was approached by the tall half naked girl with a very devilish smile, as she got closer she wrapped her arms around my neck. I was thinking here we go!! but before I blinked she rubbed my face and eyes with @Tiger balm”
    lol I was burning and laughing at same time !!

  6. Mike Durham

    Seeing Crash Worship play live was perhaps the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. It was 1992, and a friend and I had gone to a venue in Dallas for a show that was supposed to start at 11pm… but by 1am there was still no band. Apparently, the owners of the venue had been tipped off on how their place was about to get trashed by these guys, and were wisely refusing to allow them to play.

    One person in the audience had a large, mostly empty basement, and offered to let the band play there instead. It actually got going around 3am, and I’ve never seen anything like it. Their act was seriously constricted by the small, dangerously overcrowded space. Not long after the drummers came in, one band member started rapidly twirling around a pair of 3 foot long chains with large flaming balls at the ends of them, occasionally coming within inches of peoples’ faces, including mine. But the (very real!) physical danger was only one ingredient to my personal horror.

    The music wasn’t skillful, or even “good music” — just a ton of not particularly rhythmic drum pounding… but virtuosity wasn’t the point. The point was to evoke a tribal ritual feel, where literally everyone in the audience is swept up into this giant dancing jumping group thing.

    Well, this was during a time in my life when I avoided strangers at all opportunities. Just having another person board the shuttlebus I was on induced stomach-churning anxiety, and any prolonged physical contact (such as when you have to share a bus seat) could easily provoke a panic attack.

    And now: I thought I was just going to a bar to see a band play… and instead, I found myself in a hot, packed, shoulder-to-shoulder, only one exit and it’s waaay over there past that jumping, gyrating mob of people surrounding frenetically dancing drummers and a guy swinging (literal!) giant balls of fire around. And before long, everyone was melding into this unthinking mass…. but me. The lone mote of individuality. And the band could see it (partially because I wasn’t dancing), and repeatedly tried to draw me in with crazy and sometimes dangerous antics, which just increased my panic by being singled out by the dudes everyone else was paying attention to. At the time, I kept thinking of the story where Carlos Castaneda is drawn into a party with a bunch of dangerous drunks, and almost gets killed; don Juan lectures him on how he “made himself available”, opening himself that life-threatening experience. My friend, meanwhile, was in rapture: this unpredictable pounding chaos was exactly his kind of thing.

    We were finally released from the “Basement of Tribal Unity (Except That Dude)” just before sunrise. It was perhaps the most relief I’ve ever felt in my life.

  7. pl0rd

    I’ll add a CW tale…

    We are in a warehouse in Oakland where multiple parties are going on; Crash Worship setting up in one big low ceiling’d room, a rather lame tweeked out rave next door behind a big set of double doors, and a couple other warehouses full of people. CW comes out from behind a big curtain pushing a makeshift Viking ship on wheels. The band is leading the boat, and “up” on top of it there are women in mermaid costumes throwing fresh fruit and pouring box wine into/onto the crowd. They made a circuit of the room, ditched the boat, and took the stage.

    …for a minute. Their next move was to invade Poland! No, wait, anyway, they left the stage, and with most of us in tow, kicked open the doors to the rave, stomped into the middle of the floor, and /threw down/. After a few minutes, back to the main warehouse and I think we brought at least 40 extra people back with us. Successful invasion!

    The cops arrive. They turn on the lights in an attempt to stop the show; from behind the curtain (again) come 4 people, 2 of them wearing big Mardi Gras heads and riding on the shoulders of the the other 2. They have Broom sticks in hand and run around the room breaking every single lightbulb, throwing us all back into darkness. Next the cops shut down power to the room from the main breaker. Not 20 seconds pass before we hear the roar of gas generators and the show is back on. Eventually the cops succeeded in killing all amplification, but the drummers kept pounding away for another hour, and the wine/blood/flour/fruit kept coming, and most of us would end up burning our clothes the next day, and by the holy claws of Klortho the magnificent it was a beautiful and chaotic evening of unbridled debauchery.

    This might have also been the show some dumb kid set off a half stick of dynamite inside the room, showering us with broken bulb debris and ceiling plaster and making some of us temporarily deaf from the auditory shock.

    I saw CW 8-10 times in and around the bay area in the mid to late 90s. Not every show was quite as crazy as that one, but they were all CLOSE.

    1. stacy barenoski

      SWEET! I was there too! We were probably at a bunch of the same shows. I lived in the Bay Area from 1986-2005. Saw EVER-E CW show around and down to LA. All fantastic times, except the one at Maritime Hall w Master Musicians of Jajouka- that space was just “not right” for them. Still fun. Best show I saw at that particular venue was The Creatures(Siouxsie) and John Cale (VU). I miss the IBeam- SO many great shows there! Butthole Surfers, Swans, Psychic TV! BIG L-ov-E! ❤

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