Judas Priest twice in one summer! And my hometown heroes Kix! Ha! It’s always great to have old-school metal to fall back on when indie rock starts boring me to tears.
Going to see Priest again was a pretty random, last-second decision, and I probably would not have gone except that an old friend was kinda interested, and I have always sort of wanted to see Kix. Priest had been on tour with Whitesnake for much of the summer, but I never really gave a damn about Whitesnake. So I was pretty excited that David Coverdale had laryngitis and dropped out of the tour and Kix somehow got tapped to open up at least at the local show.
I’ve already talked recently about Judas Priest — and the show at Merriweather was superior in most ways to the show last month in Milwaukee — so I will talk a bit here about Kix, and ’80s metal in general.
So, yeah, Kix. Wow. What a band! I find that I can’t think about Kix without experiencing the same mixture of pride and shame that colors my discussions of my hometown area — rural western Maryland. On the one hand, I deeply love the band yet on the other hand I cringe with embarrassment at some of their antics and words. Same thing with the rural Marylanders/West Virginians I grew up with! Kix are basically exactly like the people from my hometown, in fact they practically are from my hometown; their wikipedia entry talks about how the singer met the others in Ridgeley, West Virginia; they were somewhat based in Hagerstown. They were really popular in western Maryland when I was growing up in the ’80s.
But let me describe the show. Kix were pretty good! But my god they looked old! Or anyway, sleazy frontman Steve Whiteman looked old! I have tracked down some old videos on youtube of Kix in the ’80s and I am not sure he was ever such a looker… and since some of his lyrics are predominantly about lovin’ the ladies, his skeezy look was sort of a distraction. The jumbotrons didn’t make them look any better. Also, physical appearance is semi-relevant since Kix songs are none too subtle, with songs like “Sex” and the following semi-hit, during which the friend I went with was asking “Blow my what?”
A lot of Kix songs are superior to the standard hair-metal canon, and though articles on the web often compare Kix to Poison, I think they are more similar to harder-edged pop-metal bands like Mötley Crüe and Ratt. On the other hand I believe their biggest hit was a power ballad, “Don’t Close Your Eyes” :
The band sounded great and seemed to be having fun. Whiteman talked about how they were doing some more local reunion shows where they could play a longer set, but it seemed like plenty to me, they must have played for something like an hour and 15 minutes, maybe even an hour and a half.
My favorite two songs were “The Itch” :
and also “Cold Blood” — there is a video of the ending here. “Cold Blood” is a great song, actually, and if there were any justice in the world, Kix would still be getting nice royalty checks from it, or at least it would be a popular Guitar Hero track.
So ok, those are the Kix highlights. But of course there are some low-lights too. I don’t actually care about the physical appearance thing, but there is a vibe to Kix that I have always been uncomfortable with, and I have spent 25 years being annoyed by Kix’s fairly revolting date-rape anthem, “Yeah Yeah Yeah.” (Here’s a clip from another recent Merriweather show if you’re not familiar.) I guess it is all meant to be fun, but honestly this is the kind of stuff that my old rock heroes Cobain and Vedder were railing against. The casual misogyny of party-metal is one of the main strikes against it (along with its general meat-headedness, casual homophobia (“In 1989, [Sebastian] Bach was heavily criticized for wearing a t-shirt on stage that a fan had thrown to him before he could read it, with the slogan “AIDS Kills Fags Dead” emblazoned on it … Although he made light of the incident in his original apology, Bach has since repeatedly apologized for and disavowed the statement” – via wp), conservative politics, bizarre anti-internationalism, idiot fans, etc, etc.) There is a pretty clear line — of correlation, not causality — connecting dumbass lyrics by the likes of Steve Whiteman and the rapes-to-Limp Bizkit of Woodstock ’99.
Sorry to go on a P.C. tirade but I am a P.C. kinda guy. (I have similar issues with misogynist hip-hop lyrics too. Somehow can’t get the humor in violence against women, I guess I’m just a total killjoy.) But the Kix song “Yeah Yeah Yeah” has bugged me for ages, with its “quit throwing up, don’t tell me no, tell me yeah yeah yeah!” Check out the lyrics and decide for yourself, I guess. (And by the way what was the deal with quaaludes? I was too young to ever catch that scene…)
It’s weird, I have no problem with vile lyrics coming from the likes of Cannibal Corpse, and am kinda amused by songs about necrophilia and cannibalism. I also am not against graphic sex in song lyrics, though it doesn’t seem like there are many good examples, aside from some rap songs. So maybe part of the reason I’m uncomfortable with frat-boy style lyrics about sexin’ it up has to do with the particular dudes who are singing. I mean, it’s one thing for Mick Jagger to beg for some action, or David Lee Roth to be hot for teacher. But then there are the Steve Whitemans and Vince Neils of the world, who are in a whole ‘nother category. You can pretty easily believe that a Steve Whiteman would lure a woman back to his trailer for Jack Daniels followed by comatose sex.
And yeah, I said “trailer,” here I am being snobby about my own people. I guess my thoughts about my hometown, and my thoughts about Kix, go like this: out in the boondocks, there are a lot of good people, despite a decent-sized contingent of slobbering racist assholes; there are also a lot of basically good people who are thoughtlessly racist, sexist, homophobic, and politically loony. Just because they are good people doesn’t mean I can’t condemn their racism, sexism, etc.
Ok time for a break from the rant; I really did enjoy Kix overall. So let’s look at some Judas Priest videos. Here is a montage of videos and photos from a youtuber who caught K.K. Downing’s guitar pick! I’m jealous :
Here’s a video of “Metal Gods” :
The highlight was probably “Victim of Changes” (not a super great video):
And for good measure here is “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” :
As a last bit of sociopolitical commentary, somewhat relevant to a Judas Priest show, my friend and I had a conversation at some point during the show about the homosexual subtext of heavy metal fandom. It’s totally there. There were some shirtless dudes near us, who were constantly grabbing each other amidst their headbanging. Other metal dudes, happy and screaming, locked forehead to forehead, eye to eye. I was doing some quick web searching (wonder how many other google scholar searches there are for terms like “gay heavy metal”) and couldn’t find much about the topic, surprisingly. I am sure it has been studied, that dissertations have been written about this. (If not maybe I have a new thesis topic!)
(Coincidentally, the City Paper’s Sexist blog today discusses the top 5 gay metal icons and I disagree about Doug Pinnick, I think he is pretty damn metal…)
The whole Rob Halford being gay thing was a total non-issue to me when I found out about it. I didn’t even think about it the last time I saw them; why would I? Based on the fans — and I’m now a veteran of two Priest shows and counting — it seems to be a non-issue to everyone. I would say the shirtless headbangers seemed at least as open-minded as a typical hardcore punk mosh pit. (Maybe I could do a comparative study! More thesis ideas!) Anyway it’s nice to see. I guess it’s possible that the rabid homophobic metal fans just avoid Priest, but I think more likely this is progress of a sort.