or: Stage Shows and Costumes, a Little Effort Goes a Long Way
This is Ralph’s. It’s not a new venue, but it’s far enough from my home that I’ve only recently started visiting. It’s a venue on top of a diner on top of a dive bar — every Thursday is Metal Thursday, every Wednesday is Karaōke Wednesday, and every Tuesday is Star Trek Tuesday. (I KNOW!!!) I’m used to a low stage in an empty room and maybe some draft brews if I’m lucky, so when I walked in and saw the motorcycles hanging from the ceiling, the coffin on the wall, the pinball and the huge paintings and all the other stuff hanging around the place I was caught pleasantly off guard.
But enough about the venue, Sean and I specifically trekked all the way out to Worcester to see Will and Alex play Barren Oak’s first show…mostly because they’d been dropping hints about killer candy and other things. Candy at a depressive black metal show…sure, why not?
So sticking a trick-or-treat basket loaded with delicious 90s throwback candy (we would sell our souls for a Sour Warhead back in elementary school) and “safety” razors is a great way to make everyone cringe every time someone unsuspectingly reached a hand in.
My feelings on stage shows, props and costumes are pretty much always positive. I smile when people drag out the spiked gauntlets or throw on some corpsepaint, but I regress to childlike glee over props and backdrops and less-typically-metal costumes. So I’m sure you’ll be able to gather what my feelings were on this show:
So using some small props and what appears to be a trip to an awesome thrift shop (that has not yet been shared with me — COME ON GUYS) this set has been elevated from “guys playing instruments on a stage” to “guys playing instruments on a stage who have put effort into engaging our eyes as well as our ears.” I usually enjoy the former, but I really enjoy the latter, again in the same sort of way that infants enjoy mirrors and shiny things.
Above is Will, Barren Oak’s drummer. He’s got your typical metalhead’s great long hair and beard, but he’s also wearing shiny trackpants and this crazy vintage, wildly on-trend sort-of-ikat print jacket. Rumor has it that his mom got it at a thrift store. Moms rule. Here, have a detail, bask in this glorious jacket:
It also nicely matches Will’s drumkit!
Here we have Alex’s getup, consisting of: one vintage aubergine leather trench, hand-studded at the shoulder in a dialed-down take on Burberry’s, a black hakama, a traditional Japanese version of the pleated skort, and brown boots (don’t worry, I crucified him over his footwear choices after the show). I like seeing layers of long, voluminous clothing like this because of the way it moves and emphasizes your own movements — good for stage presence!
Jesus hung out on the microphone stand, telling us how to feel about the whole thing. Again: props make people happy.
Here’s the set list, with Serious Cat greeting anyone who made the effort to look past the razor-candy and around the speakers. Aww, they made a little Barren Joke! (Ugh.)
Okay, so that’s what they look like, but what do they sound like? Unfortunately there are only a couple of incomplete tracks posted online, and my favorite (a delightful tune called Fuck Black Metal that was preceded by a masterful troll performed on the audience) isn’t there yet. So here’s my second favorite, Blissful Self-Violence, so you can listen for yourself. Until then, you can spot them at Bobfest V in a couple of weeks or keep an eye out here for future dates. Enjoy: