Friday, February 19, 2016

Unlocking The Truth

Unlocking The Truth last performance in Times SQ. 6/23/13
These kids remind me so much of hundreds and hundreds of little boys I worked with as a public middle school teacher in NYC! Sweet natured, that's how I remember them, even though that often comes accompanied by their having too much energy to sit still, something teachers like kids to do... and yes, mischievous and full of life and into everything and just beginning to find girls an overwhelming distraction and on and on. Sweet natured! And often such kids have passions for learning and doing things, things that make sense... and that are important TO THEM! And sometimes they have supportive adults in their lives and the world becomes recipient of something wonderful. In this video we see a metal band comprised of 12 year-olds performing for tips from passersby on the streets of New York City and the YouTube view counter shows 1,708,828 as I write this. By the way, the family name listed as the 'poster' of this video is Brickhouse and (see the 2nd video below) that's the same last name as that of the badass guitarist in the white T-shirt with the electric guitar and the moves to go with it. But wait...

Some stories, and the YouTube videos that spawn them, are heartwarming, but they get their Warhole 15 minutes of fame and then become fossilized evidence of something that WAS ever so interesting, but is now... SO 3 years ago.  But this story keeps rolling. Here are the boys again, but this time we are looking at no amateur, parent video; this is Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie Perez welcoming our 3 almost bar-mitzva aged little Black boys to The View. 

34 seconds into the segment Whoopi says "I mean, you guys are one of the few heavy metal bands who happen to be Black. I think a lot of people are surprised that you play heavy metal... why heavy metal? And she gets, from one of the band's members, an earnest reply, but one delivered by a very young boy who goes into that "Keep it together, self! You gotta make sense 'cause you're talking to adults now, and you gotta' talk like one, too!" voice that kids this age talk in. And he explains that he and one of the others were taken to wrestling shows by his dad where the background music was heavy metal and.... well, the rest is HISTORY!" And then Whoopi says "Wow!" and then Rosie also says "Wow!" and goes into asking the obligatory, adult talking to kids question "And how are you kids balancing school and being rock stars?" Good job, Rosie. And, she gets a response from the kid in the middle, the one with that high, sculpted, Afro inspired hair and the fashionable, Buddy Holly nerd glasses.  As he humors her, this kid comes off  as are more verbally adept and certainly more authentic than she, saying "Well.... that all depends on the time management. If you balance your time, then you have time to do anything." But, not to be upstaged by this still wet behind the ears fledgling talk show phenomenon, Rosie shoots back with another of those "Well what else would you ask them?" questions saying "Oh wow... do you have time for girls?" and after a well timed quick round of laughter from the studio audience, we get that sheepish, goofy, overwhelmed by being put on the spot, silent grin from the guys and instantly we are snapped back into the realization that these are just sweet kids, not so sophisticated after all, and we melt as we are put in touch with how much we love humanity, again! Hey, The View is put together by pros! 

And then Whoopi ties up the short, throwaway interview segment by saying "I saw ya'll... I forget where it was... I was kinda knocked out. You guys are a kick-ass group; I love ya'll! The three of you have written a memoir about your hard work <she holds up the book to the camera for half a second>... do you have any specific advice you would give to people?" and the same kid who just 30 seconds previously had his cute, "aw shucks, I don' wanna' talk about girls..." grin all over the screen now assumes the roll of established musical icon and comes out with THAT gem, saying "You know... um... yeah, follow your dream, be yourself, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something !" Cliche? Of course! But it actually works in this situation and I guess that's because it is SO refreshing to see this bit of hackneyed verbal folderol be absolutely and powerfully true for someone, a fresh faced kid, at that. And as we hear it from his 12 year old lips and realize that it IS the truth for him, it becomes, once again, a possible truth for us. THIS is great television! 

And then, as the applause dies down, Rosie looks into the camera and teleprompter and reads and says "And you know what? Here to perform their song, Monster, is the amazing heavy metal band.... Unlocking The Truth!!!" And then, five minutes and sixteen seconds into this segment of The View we see these 3 sweet kids from Brooklyn morph into every professional level heavy metal band we've ever seen. They are great! And they alternate between coming off as serious competition to Black Sabbath, Metalica, and Iron Maiden and then looking for a second again like Mrs. Schwartz' 8th grade class and then back again to conjuring up Mega Death and Motor Head and then back once more to being naughty for having stayed up past their bedtime on a school night.

Do we have rock bands any longer who are a threat to God and the American Way and the Republican Party? Or has the entire phenomenon become so predictably replicable that it no longer has any punch whatsoever? So much so that little middle schoolers from a NYC neighborhood put on the heavy metal band role the way they would put on their discount store Halloween Costume and hit the streets; not looking for trouble, but to have a little innocent fun in a very predictable way. 

Which brings me to the question (seems like a sensible one to me) "Is Jimi Hendrix turning over in his grave or is he smiling down from that stack of Marshall amps up in the sky?" 

For a little insight here's another video. This one has far less to do with the phenomenon of rock band as cultural cliche and a great deal to do with the love of guitar. By the way, this series presents some very accomplished musicians and here we have Malcolm, leader guitarist of Unlocking the Truth, interviewed as one of them. Good to see him getting some respect and acknowledgement for being a dedicated musician. And if you're up there Jimi, I think you should look down and pay attention!

Guitar Power 2015 ep. 5 featuring Malcolm Brickhouse

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