Dead Neon wasn’t created to be comedic, but the self-described “primitive nuclear rapture doom metal” band sure makes the audience laugh at its Tuesday night Freakin’ Frog debut.
Frontman and creator Jarret Keene is about as un-metal it gets. An author who contributes regularly to CityLife, he’s got a dad-next-door look and a pink Hello Kitty guitar. The guitar is adorable, and Keene’s voice is as cute as metal is ever going to get. He’s got the gruff, guttural thing down, as well as the aggressive riffs to back it up. Still, he appears neither ferocious nor particularly comfortable onstage, coming off more like someone doing obscure metal karaoke, only pretending to be a rocker.
Actually, that isn’t so far from the truth. Twenty years removed from the last band he played in, Keene threw together Dead Neon only to promote his latest book of poetry, A Boy’s Guide to Arson. Including rehearsals, tonight is the group’s fourth time together. The live debut—a few songs played after poetry readings and before a real band goes on—is less about Dead Neon’s metal-jam aura than about having fun and peddling poetry.
So, when a fog machine goes off during the final post-apocalyptic song, and Keene cracks up with laughter, forgets the words and improvises lyrics about the fog machine being a bitch, the audience laughs along. Everyone’s in on the joke, and that makes it all okay.