Teen rockers Brain In A Cage tear it up at free show on Herreid-Fender Stage
At the latest free all-ages show in Tower Records, I was really feeling like the old man, and the goth-punk-metal-rap-body-art stereotypes were building up in my head straight off. The Herreid-Fender stage was surrounded by the local high school “weird kids,” each trying on whatever combination of alternative fashion they could pull together.
In a direct reflection of the commercialized blending of every musical and pop culture phenomenon that loomed over them in the form of goth board games, pose-able Hulk dolls and nauseating Osbourne memorabilia, the fashion was unified only in its un-unifiedness. The kids weren’t necessarily tools, though, they just have a lot to choose from; and they choose anything they feel like. And, contrary to popular mindset (mine included) they weren’t even angry. Maybe everyone was just friends with one another, but the vibe was so open and fun that it reminded me of the late-'80s and early-'90s’ alternative and grunge shows that went on at the famed Burro Room and Juanita’s, where the mixture of punk, new wave and metal created an equally amusing melting pot.
Playing its first show ever, opening band Lewd Conduct pretty much fell back on rap-rock stereotypes. The band played its rhythm-heavy metal riffs well, and lead singer Chris Wiegert’s vocals were strong and varied enough to offer a lot of promise. But the members’ reliance on imitating the moves of their influences was a bit too obvious. It’s the first show though, and perhaps their nervousness will be replaced by the confidence to carve out their own personality.
Brain In A Cage was where it was at, and with a 1-2-3-4 of “Fuck you! Fuck your opinions!” I was hooked. It wasn’t just the jolt of those words coming from 15-year-old lead singer/guitarist Kirk Williams that sucked me in (after the show he stressed the fact that the first song, Break The Mold, is one of his band’s only songs with so many F-bombs), it was also the enthusiastic head-banging into which he and bassist Cor Vaspra (who’s also 15, and gets my vote for coolest rock star name in Chico) immediately threw themselves.
This really was metal. Ferocious and huge, Brain In A Cage was impressive. The players were also hilarious. The between-song exchanges of Williams and Vaspra were great as they spoofed Saturday Night Live skits, and had fun at the expense of the impressively endowed Mikhail Barishnikov poster they used as a backdrop.
Having its metal moves down and all its chops in place accounted for only half the band’s power. In fact, more impressive to me was how comfortable the band was playing it loose and fun. At 15, being good and being loose is awe inspiring, and the perfect recipe for a really great live show.
Plus, they’re smart. With lyrical themes akin to a somewhat naïve Rage Against the Machine, Williams got the crowd chanting along with the band’s anthem to non-conformity: “We will not comply!"—which the crowd indeed did not, choosing to play around in a goofy mock moshpit instead of joining the chorus
This was fun. I felt a little like a grandpa. But I was a proud grandpa, watching as the kids explored what the world has to offer and having fun in the process.