Last night at the Bayou, Steve Whiteman, lead vocalist of Kix, Hagerstown's heavy metal contenders, began by throwing handfuls of Cheerios into the crowd. "We ran out of Kix," said Whiteman later. "Doesn't really matter, they're all the same."

For those who can't tell one heavy metal band from another, Whiteman's words may sound ironic. Kix will certainly be accused of sounding like other heavy metal bands, especially Led Zeppelin. But if Kix has chosen to echo a rock tradition--excesses and all--rather than expand it, at least they do it with considerable stagecraft.

The blond, wiry and wired Whiteman, who likes to punctuate lyrics with scissor splits, makes the Led Zeppelin comparison inevitable. He has a high, reedy voice similar to Robert Plant's, and though Whiteman tones it down occasionally, more often the band's heavy use of reverb sends his words careening off the walls.

Although hardly novel, that effect combined with strobe lights, abrasive guitar duels, thundering percussion and short, catchy teen-age anthems could conceivably push Kix to the top of the heavy metal heap. If that happens, it won't be because the band is original or the least bit daring. It'll be because Kix is clever and sharp enough to consolidate its influences while making music that is instantly familiar and reassuring to a young generation of rock fans.