Kitten is the future of rock and roll. And that shouldn’t surprise you in an era of Internet cat memes: it’s a feline world and we’re just living in it. Kitten isn’t just Chloe Chaidez, the barely-legal chanteuse fronting this Los Angeles-based phenom of a band, but there’s no doubt that she’s front and center. They’re young, they’re possibly still impressionable, but they’re not there to warm up the crowd.
Cincinnati’s Bad Veins is there for that task. Ben Davis’ anagram band is more senior than the headliners, but his Vietnam-era Army outfit is ready to rock. New drummer Jake Bonta is Davis’ lone accompaniment, save the analog reel-to reel machine apparently responsible for piping in a more fully fleshed-out sound. They’re young, they’re a lot of fun, and Bonta’s energetic drumming properly warms up the crowd. The vibe is properly loose, wild, and on edge of careening out of control. And with the setup at hand, that is somewhat ironic. After all, playing alongside pre-recorded sounds requires a certain level of discipline and precision. They have Weezer moments. They have Pavement moments. They have affected moments where Davis sings into the receiver of an avocado phone. For that matter, they have a lot of 90s alt rock moments. Despite the tricks, it’s rock, even if you can’t tell where all the sound originates. They merit re-visitation, at least, and are worthy of another viewing.
And then there’s the maelstrom that is Kitten. Most of the band appears old enough to vote, but the “X” temporarily tattooed on their hands indicates they’re not old enough to drink in our puritanical legal regime. They jump in with full abandon, belting out some song that seems to pay lyrical homage to Billy Idol‘s epic track, “Flesh For Fantasy.” It’s a total rocker, and it’s just the start.
They’re completely kinetic. Chaidez brings a heavy breathing dose of charisma while the guitarist wails on his Les Paul with surprising precision and emotive verve. This guy is seriously talented, his Jack Osborne-resemblance notwithstanding. Stage right, we have a keyboardist wearing a Suicidal Tendencies shirt…is this the first time that has ever occurred in the world? Suicidal combined with keyboards? It can’t be. But apparently, it can.
Chloe’s hair is continually flying from hither to thither…she strokes it…she touches it…deeply…it’s the best first date ever. Her ever-present exuberance is a sign of youth even as her liberation is unquestioned. Her stage theatrics are more hardcore punk than what one might expect from the album; what might be assumed to be her father’s influence translates to the set writ large. Their recordings would presage ambiance, they would presage a touch of electronica. And that isn’t what this is…at all. This is rock and roll set to 11, this is passion set to 13, this is what Brooklyn has forgotten.
They pull out the single, “G#,” blowing the proverbial doors off the joint, and THEN they transition into an interlude focused upon the epic Prince track, “Purple Rain.” It is…utterly mesmerizing. Musically, they’re blowing away any expectations one could possibly have of a band this callow. Ageism, sure, but seriously…they theoretically could be playing a high school talent show. (Pity the fool(s) paired against them). This is first-rate entertainment. This is rockin’ in the free world.
Yes, it’s amazing that a band this young can exceed expectations so mightily. It must be the same type of amazing as when The Sex Pistols dropped knowledge upon their elders, forever busting up the paradigm. Their constant movement is entirely engaging, even while somewhat baffling. How the hell is she not concussed from her aggressive head banging? How can she belt out these tracks while jumping about the stage with reckless abandon? She’s probably not a CrossFit disciple, but she’s definitely in tip-top shape.
All that aggression is balanced with the femininity of her vox. It’s a paradox: this kitten is vicious, masculine in aggression, full of fury, and yet exhibits the discipline required to stop on a dime. Her overt sexuality tiptoes a line alongside masculinity and dodgy societal mores, it feels fresh and experienced and illicit, all at the same time. Her tongue continually reaches out to the crowd, her wild expressions mimicked by flagellated hair. It’s as titillating as it is uncomfortable — this display of dualism — masculinity amidst femininity, vulnerability amidst aggression.
And of course, since they tweaked the audience fairly early in the set with the single, there’s only one way to end, and that’s with a full-throated punk explosion. It’s wild, wild, wild. And — in the words of Raymond Babbitt — it’s “the future of rock and roll.”
Photos: Katherine Gaines