I was given Cage the Elephant’s self-titled debut album a few years back. Gave the first track one listen and basically wrote them off. I try to never disregard a band without giving their whole record a listen, but I just thought there was nothing for me at all.
Fast forward to two months ago. My girlfriend, who is the Creative Coordinator at Jive Records/Sony Music Entertainment, put us on the list for a private industry showcase. When I heard it was Cage the Elephant, I was reluctant to say the least. But I’m not one to turn down an intimate showcase with a band that is gaining so much notoriety. To assuage my girl’s dismay that I wasn’t into them, and since I’d been hearing how good they were for years, I went.
As soon as they came out, I was doing the usual “kind of listen but not my thing.” Then, about 30 seconds in, I found myself stomping my feet, bobbing my head and anticipating the next riff, change up and fill. They absolutely blew my wig back. I was floored, humbled and apologetic all at once.
Through the set, in which they played the entire new album, Thank you, Happy Birthday, from top to bottom, they were brimming with intricate guitar chords, thumping, hard-hitting percussion beats and screaming, screeching vocals in the vein of Kurt Cobain that we are in such dire need for. If a savior was ever so needed for garage grunge, it is now. With Cage The Elephant, we give you the modern Jesus Christ of this genre. Complete with the image. Wearing non-skin-tight jeans and regular T-shirts, they spit in the face of the trendiness that is music today. Where you have to look cool to sound good, they call bullshit.
Live, they are beyond tight, with amazing timing, incredible harmonies, and there is an undeniable connection between them. Amidst a room full of some of the most important figures in music and the most important people at their label, they are lost and locked into their own place and time. They give the impression that, regardless of a record contract or none, they would be doing it all the same.
The front man, Matthew Schultz, is a complete lunatic. The crowd, filled with executives in suits from the label and SONY were all front and center. Halfway through the set, I’m going to say that each and every one of them wished they hadn’t been where they were. With Matthew screaming in their faces the chorus from, “Indy Kidz” (“You’re so cool, I want to be just like you!!!!!”) right before diving on top of them, only to land on the ground and then use their shoulders as ladders to stand on top of their thousand-dollar suits while gripping the ceiling and screaming the chorus. At this sight, I was instantly a massive fan. Then, Matthew tackled the bass payer off of the stage — stating, at least in my mind, that they do what they want whenever they want. They get lost in their art. THAT is the trait of a true artist that is there for the music. For the love and passion of it. This band bleeds that passion.
Once the set was done, Matthew came back out, alone, and picked up a guitar. He struck a few chords and threw it on the ground. “That thing is terribly out of tune. So I’m just gonna do this without it. I apologize if it sounds like shit,” he said. He then sang “Right Before my Eyes” in its entirety a capella, keeping tune and timing throughout.
In a time when more bands/artists than not put as much emphasis on their boots, jackets and tight jeans as the music, Cage The Elephant let the music and energy in their performance sculpt their image. Though the labels may be driving them to tune up their look, they seem reluctant to change. They are possibly the most refreshing act to hit the mainstream in years. Cage the Elephant is the perfect pseudonym for them. They are the elephant in the room that needs to be caged. They put the fear into the pseudo bands out there that won’t be standing once the “Cage” storms through. —Luke Ditella