The Devil Is In The Details

or: Stage Shows and Costumes, a Little Effort Goes a Long Way

Ralph's Rock Diner

Ralph’s Rock Diner

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.

Here, have a pterodactyl skeleton. It's hanging from the ceiling.

Here, have a ptero­dactyl skeleton. It’s hanging from the ceiling.

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?

That wasn't a joke and those are definitely razor blades.

That wasn’t a joke and those are def­i­nitely razor blades.

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.

"This jacket has never been worn by a white person before." - Alex

This jacket has prob­ably never been worn by a white person before.” — Alex

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:

I would unironically wear this all over the place.

I would uniron­i­cally wear this all over the place.

It also nicely matches Will’s drumkit!

Cultural Appropriation.jpg

Cultural Appropriation.jpg

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 told me so.

Jesus told me so.

Jesus hung out on the micro­phone stand, telling us how to feel about the whole thing. Again: props make people happy.

Meow meow meow

Meow meow meow

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:

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