Get Your Kix Until You’re 66

If there's one area that Baltimore music has always been deficient in, it's stadium-ready rock stars. But we'll always have Kix, the Hagerstown-bred glam metal quintet who ruled Hammerjacks back when the club was a Mid-Atlantic hard rock mecca and eventually went platinum on the back of its 1988 power ballad "Don't Close Your Eyes." And though Hammerjacks was torn down, then brought back, then closed again, four of the five founding members of Kix still get together once a year to relive the glory days for their still rabid local fans. For the fifth September in a row, Kix played a string of regional dates, never farther north than Pennsylvania or farther south than Virginia, including last Friday’s triumphant stop at Rams Head Live.

Of course, hair metal nostalgia is a cottage industry unto itself these days, with the era's biggest stars now hamming it up on reality TV and its middle-tier bands reforming at one point or another for package tours and festivals like July's Rocklahoma. But there's something slightly more intimate and sentimental about a Kix reunion in Baltimore. After all, even by the standards of such a brazenly careerist genre, Kix was a cult band, more acclaimed and influential then they were popular. Renowned rock critic Chuck Eddy listed several Kix albums in his book Stairway to Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe, including one in the top five, and other hair metal bands--particularly Poison--have been accused of deriving much of their stage show from Kix.

After an opening set of boogie-woogie by Kix guitarist Ronnie Younkins's current band, the Blues Vultures, the audience, roughly 20 percent of whom were outfitted in Kix T-shirts, was ready for the headliners. And lead singer Steve Whiteman didn't disappoint, storming onstage with a lit fuse on the end of his microphone in a re-enactment of the cover of 1985's Midnite Dynamite. Looking something like Jeff Spicoli dressed as Robert Plant circa 1975, Whiteman is still a picture-perfect hard rock frontman; stick thin and squealing an endless stream of sexual double entendres like an amalgam of Bon Scott and Steven Tyler. He spent most of the night on the edge of the stage, ready at a moment's notice to flip his microphone toward the audience to scream out the line about Baltimore in "Girl Money" -- a song that's "a hip-hop sample waitin' to happen", if local rapper Midas is to be believed--or lead an endless sing-along of "The Itch." And he kept the props coming even after the dynamite mic, holding an umbrella during "Cold Shower" and pulling dozens of balloons onstage for the finale.

It all might've been just a trip down memory lane for all the heads of graying hockey hair in attendance, but for someone too young to have experienced Kix in their heyday, it was still a thunderous, hilarious show, providing ample cause for their still loyal following. Though Kix mixed up selections from throughout its six studio albums, there was a clear emphasis on the band's 1981 self-titled debut, with over half of the album's songs appearing in the set. And it was that album's perennial fan favorite, "Yeah Yeah Yeah," that closed out the night, as it always does, complete with Whiteman's bizarre midsong monologue, which begins with an Elmer Fudd impression and ends with an intricately detailed description of snot and vomit. Kix may not have gotten the level of success it deserved, but it still provides Baltimore with the kind of rock star that could only have come from Maryland.

By Al Shipley, see original article here: City Paper Online
published in The Baltimore City Paper 9/25/2007