Nothing says spring has sprung in Los Angeles like going to an outdoor show at the Poor Kids Mansion in Lincoln Heights. The freezing nights and the rain have given way to let some people who REALLY love music to set up a PA in a backyard of a 120-year-old, 4-story house that has been home to many beloved Angelenos. Tonight’s bill included no less than thrash legends – HIRAX! Nestled between Cancer Christ and Ghoul with SMD opening, you know with Hirax that ya got no complaints.
I’ve always been a fan of trash metal and I really feel that it has aged quite well. I saw the Big Four when it was called “Clash of the Titans” and Metallica was too busy getting ready to drop the “Black Album” on us to bother to join Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth in what was one of the best concerts I ever saw. I caught that tour at the El Paso County Coliseum with Alice in Chains as the opener and at one point I had lost all my friends, being that “The Barn” was completely General Admission, and I was just watching people start fires on the floor of the indoor venue. So epic! Last December, I saw Armored Saint with W.A.S.P. at The Wiltern and they just destroyed everything in their path. There was no concession for age or changes throughout time – they brought it as hard as ever with John Bush’s incredible voice as beautiful as ever and Joey Vera as powerful as ever and completely unrelenting in his attack. Pure heaven!
I wasn’t as familiar with Hirax but the second they announced tickets I was more than happy to hand over my fifteen bucks plus a reasonable fee to eventbrite. My husband and I arrived at the Poor Kids Mansion while Cancer Christ were on stage. We had seen them in February at the Echoplex and they deliver a pretty good show and being Easter weekend they were the Christian ministry I was most interested in. Since I had been seeing people posting on the socials that evening “jesus is dead til tomorrow so let’s do some crimes” it felt especially fitting to be at a Cancer Christ show on that night. Christ wasn’t dead, he took the night off to preach that his dad does NOT like law enforcement – AT ALL. When the service was over, I saw that one lucky attendee even got her hands on a bloody bible, literally. Happy Easter Kids!
We moved up towards the stage for Hirax. It really felt like the parties I went to growing up in Las Cruces, although I never saw a keg. I did get handed the tiniest flyer I have even seen. I’m kinda surprised it wasn’t just a QR code but major props to whoever worked so hard to save paper. (I put it in my dollhouse to treasure forever.) As I looked around more closely to the attendees there was one thing for certain, this was all ages. I for one was very happy to see that kids today have their priorities straight and for this night that meant their first time in a mosh pit. Apparently, that’s a big thing these days. At Armored Saint and W.A.S.P. I was behind some kids who were completely confused by someone throwing water from above and it landing all over them. I tried my best to explain between songs that if you’re close to front and center that these things happen. They said it was their first metal show, I pointed at the hood of my jacket that I had flipped over the head at the first sign of a splash and responded, “Not mine.”
When Hirax took over the stage I was tempted to go into the pit. But during a previous announcement about a missing phone, I learned the owner of that phone was 15 and he had just had his first pit encounter and it was baptism by fire since one of his friends had pushed him in without warning. If I were to go into the pit and accidentally hit someone, is that child abuse? I did think how helpful I was to the teens at W.A.S.P. and how when the crowd started surging, I told them to bend their knees, get a little loose and go with the flow and not totally fight it unless being pushed back. I always believe in leading by example so I road that wave with my feet barely touching the floor and got myself to the front, locked my elbow over the rail and pulled myself into position while smiling at the kids I was demonstrating this technique to the whole time. You’re welcome kids.
For this show I decided to remain pit adjacent in case someone needed my help to be pulled up. Admittedly I had also made the mistake of not wearing Doc Martens and the boots I was wearing did not provide adequate toe protection, something that might not have been as much of an issue if I hadn’t had done a full 26.2 marathon in the desert of New Mexico a couple weeks prior.
Hirax did not disappoint. Hirax’s remaining original member, vocalist Katon W. De Pena, brings so much to the mic. As a singer, a front man, and someone you totally want to party with – you definitely know you’re in good hands with him as the captain of this metal party. I believe he said the rest of the band was new and he hadn’t played with them previously, but whether or not I heard that right they were great. The kids were having an incredible time in the pit and everywhere was beautiful yet dusty chaos.
One thing not having an incredible time was the PA system. It periodically shut off but not knowing if the system was overloaded or if someone tripped over a chord or if the cops had come to bust everything up created an air of excitement. Unfortunately it also created distortion as in every time it got rebooted it started to sound like it had just smoked a pack of cigarettes. After Hirax melted it down and ran it over with a Buick, the music being played between bands went from low-fi to the Brenda Vaccaro stage.
By the time Ghoul hit the stage you had no idea if the PA was gonna make it to the end. Ghoul had definitely brought all the kids to the yard and they were ready to mosh, and stage dive, and have a great time. “Lil Nas X’s favorite band” is their bio and that’s a lot to live up to and they know it. Although wearing hoods they felt a bit like a sanitized Mentors playing GWAR lite. But the kids loved them and that’s what made me happy.
I don’t know if the PA made it to the end, but I did tap out a bit early. Unsure of how much madness would spill out of the Poor Kids Mansion’s backyard and into the streets of Lincoln Heights, I thanked the people at the door for a truly lovely evening and walked my dusty boots on down the road. I also posted a little TikTok that captured the magic enough for some people to really appreciate a tiny bit of my wonderful evening.
As Live Nation sucks up venues around town (and the world) making music less accessible unless you’re willing to bury yourself into a life of debt, it was so great being at the Poor Kids Mansion where it’s okay if you’re broke but it ain’t gonna ultimately break you. I hadn’t been there since the memorial for my favorite show buddy, Shane Williams. If we’re going to protect our kids, we gotta protect their right to experience live music and that means fighting a culture that basically celebrates soulless greed and life destroying profits. And I for one am always gonna prioritize my concert funds to go to shows who care about the bands and their audiences, and it was great seeing so many kids into metal. Almost brought a tear to my eye to see the kids in the mosh pit for their first time. And at that moment I truly felt that the kids, regardless of their socioeconomic status, were alright.