Live Review – Cage Park @ Hare & Hounds

Cage Park © Paul Reynolds

Cage Park

Hare & Hounds

Review by George Wainwright

Cage Park – local heroes hit close to home

A short drive south of Birmingham city centre brings you through a suburban utopia of arts, music and culture. Moseley is a well-known location for 90’s Britpop fans, being the birthplace of Ocean Colour Scene’s 1996 album ‘Moseley Shoals’. In more recent times, neighbouring commuter belt King’s Heath has stolen the spotlight, having hosted blockbuster names such as Slowthai and Arlo Parks. Tonight’s act has achieved the same feat as both the aforementioned artists, having sold out beloved municipal venue The Hare and Hounds. Named affectionately after a popular play park further down the high street, Cage Park are presenting themselves as the next force to be reckoned with on the indie Midlands scene.

Despite being freshly ordained under the Cage Park moniker, the band are already a cornerstone of the local live music backdrop. Previously known as Flares, the quartet (Arthur Belben, Edie Mist, Reuben Saunders and Leo White) met at secondary school, quickly amassing a loyal following of their peers. After a forced absence throughout the pandemic, Cage Park are dipping their toes in at the deep end, performing at prestigious venues including Birmingham’s O2 Academy. It’s been a while since the King’s Heath cult heroes have performed so close to home. They’ve not been gone for long, but Cage Park at The Hare and Hounds is reminiscent of a homecoming gig.  

Cage Park are prefaced by a trio of up-and-coming support acts, the first of which is Mini Milk and The Kraves. Mini Milk cram the stage with their five members, using their numerical strength to create a cacophony of raucous instrumentation. Lead vocalist Charlotte exudes a captivating swagger, the audience entranced by her showmanship.

Next on the bill is Midland’s regulars Pretty Vile. The punk duet (bandmates and best mates Erin and Kit) rattle through their set at breakneck speed, equal parts disgusting and delightful.

For the final warmup performance, Londoners Sterling Press take to the stage. Channelling the sounds of southbound 90’s Britpop, the band deliver an easy on the ears selection of clean-cut indie rock songs. Perhaps Sterling Press are overly exuberant in their aspirations, reaching for something beyond themselves – but aspiration has never been damaging to tonight’s headliners. Just three years prior, Cage Park were performing at school fairs and street parties; now they’re stepping up in front of over a hundred people… 

There’re no signs of nerves as guitarist Leo White gleefully gears up for set-opener ‘Bus’. ‘Bus’ is a riff heavy ode to the nearby number 50 route, Belben and Mist playfully duetting over “crying children” and “Tesco’s out the window”. Cage Park encapsulate the very essence of being a young adult growing up in a larger-than-life city, a sentiment that is unanimously shared by all the adolescents in the audience.

‘Tunnel Vision’ serves as slice of nostalgia, the song having been written whilst the bandmates were still at school together. Punctuated by a cleverly executed breakdown led by drummer Reuben Saunders, ‘Tunnel Vision’ is a mainstay on every Cage Park set list.

A glance at the past and a taste of the future, the band debuts some unreleased material alongside their older gems. ‘Puzzle’ is a dreamy track layered with fuzzy guitar, whilst bassist Edie Mist takes control of lead vocals for another previously unheard song, ‘Split Ends’. Mist’s relentless energy launches the room into a two-stepping extravaganza, bruising the floorboards. Elsewhere in the set, Cage Park present a bizarre medley covering Abba and M.I.A. By all accounts, an indie band covering 70’s pop paired with 2000’s rap shouldn’t be a coherent success, but the band execute both covers perfectly; a testament to ‘Cage Park’s’ genre-bending heritage.

The band return to their roots for the latter stages of the set, debuting new single ‘Hand Me Downs’. Released just two days ago, the new song has racked up over 1000 streams, quickly establishing itself as a firm fan favourite. Follow up ‘Parma Violets’ comes from the 2020 EP of the same name, a glitzy glam-rock tune that showcases the extravagance between Belben and Mist, who share lyrical credit. Also taken from the ‘Parma Violets’ EP, ‘OK’ is an effortlessly catchy cut that draws the set towards a grand conclusion.

‘Mud’ is the closing number of the show, sister song to set opener ‘Bus’. Riffing on weightier punk influences, ‘Mud’ brings out the best in the band; heavy drums, melodic guitar and more fun-loving lyrics, lamenting the tribunals of camping at a festival. With an abrupt cut off to the set closer, Cage Park bring down the curtain on a triumphant evening. Resisting calls for an encore, Arthur, Leo, Edie and Reuben jostle amongst the crowd, conversing with friends, family and familiar faces.

The oncoming success of Cage Park is almost certain to topple the four teens to stardom; but no matter how far away they’re scattered, the local heroes will always have time for home.