As anyone in the industry will tell you, making sure a group of musicians are all on the same page can be like herding cats. Meanwhile, getting The Rock Cats to work together is herding cats.
Because the three members of the Rock Cats are all...cats. They're the headlining act of The Acro-Cats variety show, which also includes — as the name implies — a group of acrobatically-inclined kittehs. And unruliness isn't the only thing the Rock Cats have in common with most human bands. They spend a significant amount of their lives in a crowded, malfunctioning, sometimes smelly bus — and it’s not unheard of for the furry trio to let their snooty rock star attitudes get out of control.
“If Dakota, our drummer, drifts over to Nue, our keyboard player, Nue will swat her,” explains Acro and Rock Cats ringleader Samantha Martin via phone, on her way to a tour stop in Salem, Pa. “If Oz, our guitar player, drifts over to where Dakota is, Dakota will swat at him. The band definitely has their share of drama, but as long as they stay in their respective spaces, they play really calmly.”
Arguably, what Dakota, Nue and Oz do isn’t what we traditionally consider playing rock ‘n roll — it’s more like batting at miniature instruments in order to earn delicious kitty treats. However, that, plus the astounding feats of kitty gymnastics displayed by the 13-member Acro-Cat troupe, should more than satisfy those who spend their days trolling for cat videos on YouTube.
Having trouble wrapping your head around the notion of disciplined, athletic and (mostly) obedient cats? You’re greatly underestimating an animal trainer with a quarter-century of professional experience, including seven years marshalling The Acro-Cats. Originally specializing in rat direction, Martin can take credit for wrangling the adorable rodents scurrying about in Megadeth’s otherwise menacing video for “Go To Hell,” among several non-human performances in films and advertisements. She believes virtually any animal can be trained with the “clicker” method of positive reinforcement.
Martin insists that, through proper cat training, our feline companions may eventually shake their unfortunate stigma of “Man’s Second-Best Friend.”
“When you adopt a puppy, you go to dog obedience courses. You go for walks. You have a feeding hour. You don’t just leave a big bowl of food out all the time. With cats, sometimes it becomes a latchkey relationship,” the Second City resident explains. “By training your cat, you’ll strengthen your bond [with the cat], and if your cat’s doing a bunch of cute tricks, you’ll be a lot less likely to leave that cat behind when you go apartment searching.”
If Martin’s cats can jaunt across a kitty-sized balance beam, leap from scaffold to scaffold, and sort of play the guitar, what will cats in the future be capable of? Will they don adorable kitty-sized business suits and scamper off to 9-to-5 jobs on weekday mornings? Will kitty scientists and engineers herald in the next wave of technological breakthroughs? Will cats overthrow their tyrannical human oppressors, and rule us with an iron paw? If so, cheering and clapping when Martin rolls her 35-foot touring bus full of kitty stars into Somerville for three shows this week might be a good opportunity to score brownie points with our future overlords.
If you go
July 24 @ 7 p.m
July 25 @ 7 p.m. + 9 p.m.
The Center for Arts at the Armory
191 Highland Ave., Somerville