Blast Off With Rocket From The Crypt

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Travis Becker offers up his Humble Opinion.

Saturday April 5, 2014, legendary San Diego band Rocket from the Crypt wrapped up the east coast dates of their reunion tour in Washington DC in front of a capacity crowd of about 700 fans at Black Cat in Washington DC’s U Street neighborhood. While this may not really qualify as a pop culture event in the broadest sense, Sean and I were in attendance, so here are a few of my humble opinions about how it went down.

Rocket from the Crypt certainly isn’t a household name musically.  Formed in the early 90’s, the band released a prolific output of music, much of it on limited edition vinyl singles released on many different independent labels.  They almost broke through in the mid-90’s with a pair of releases on Interscope Records (Scream, Dracula, Scream and RFTC), but it was not to be and the band continued on in obscurity until 2005 when they disbanded to allow Speedo, ND, Petey X, Apollo 9, JC 2000 and Ruby Mars to pursue other projects.  The band’s influence, however, never really diminished among those in the know.  Eventually, the band reunited for an appearance on the children’s television show, Yo Gabba Gabba, a show on which band singer, guitarist and found John “Speedo” Reis had previously appeared as a character known as, “The Swami” .  A few dates in Europe followed and then, to the joy of their legion of devoted fans, a tour of the U.S.

Personally, I discovered Rocket from the Crypt around 1996.  I was working at a music store while attending college and in one shipment of cut-out product (CD’s discontinued by record labels that are then sold to retail stores at a discount to be sold in bargain bins and such), I found a CD with a gnarly-looking scorpion on the front.  I hadn’t heard of the band, but the cover was enough for me.  As soon as I played Scream, Dracula, Scream for the first time I was hooked.  The power and density of the sound was like nothing I had ever heard.  It was a wall of guitars, drums and to my great surprise, even horns.  It wasn’t long before I owned all of their records I could find and even had a tattoo of their logo done, my first tattoo experience.  The one thing that continued to elude me, however, was the live power of Rocket from the Crypt, and when they disbanded in 2005, I just assumed that seeing them in concert was a dream I would have to put away forever.  Until one fateful date last December, that was, when I saw the tour dates for the East Coast come through on an Internet presale.  I didn’t hesitate at all, even though the show was a couple of hours away in Washington, I knew I was going, no matter what.

Saturday’s performance did not disappoint the eighteen years’ worth of lofty expectations I had built up.  The band hit the stage following a short performance by opener Dan Sartain, an entertaining Rockabilly and Blues singer who recalled Dick Dale, Chuck Berry and the Ramones in equal measure through his set.  Resplendent in matching black and white outfits, Rocket from the Crypt wasted no time, launching immediately into a group of songs from their 1995 EP, the State of the Art is on Fire.  They segued into many of their better known songs from Circa: Now! right up through their most recent studio offering, Live from Camp X-Ray.  Highlights for me included the desperate sounding Young Livers, and the show closer, Glazed, which I half expected them to jam out and extend, but which worked just as well in the tight arrangement they went with.  The band played like the seasoned vets they are and the in-house sound was spot-on, but there was a loose, fun feeling throughout.  Adding to this was Speedo’s between song banter, which had me cracking up all night.

I hadn’t been to Black Cat in years, and the neighborhood has certainly grown up in the time I’ve been gone.  The lonely Domino’s Pizza I remembered was gone, replaced by a Trader Joe’s and at least a dozen restaurants that looked out of my price range and dress code.  Perhaps the only disappointment for me was the DC crowd which seemed fairly sedate for the joyous revival happening in their midst.  This is, of course, with the exception for the one guy in front of Sean and I for the first few songs who was either the most enthusiastic air-guitar player I have ever witnessed or was having some kind of seizure.  All things taken together, in my humble opinion, a great time was had by all, and in Speedo’s words, “Everybody say yeah!  Alright, the concert was a success!”  Hopefully this little reunion was successful enough to keep Rocket from the Crypt around for a few more tours and dare I dream – a new record down the road sometime.


A Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

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By: Joshua Fargason

A Captain America: The Winter Soldier review written by our very own Captain America, Captain Joshua Fargason

 

Josh’s Humble Opinion:  Like many, I have eagerly anticipated Marvel Studios latest release, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (CA:TWS). I’ve been a diehard fan of Captain America since childhood. Having seen the movie, I have to say Marvel has not let its audience down in the least. The latest installment of their “megafranchise” continues to build the momentum built up thus far by its predecessors.

Bottom line up front for those who are wondering: there are two post-credits scenes. If that’s all you were wondering before heading off to the movie, there you go. You’re set. Enjoy!

For those who want to know more, here we go:

I could go on at length about Evans, Johansson, Jackson, & Redford, but for the sake of brevity I will just say they all turned in excellent performances worthy of their caliber. Casting director Sarah Finn and her team did their job well with the entire cast. Standouts, for me, were two new faces in the franchise. Anthony Mackie delivers a very real and human portrayal of a military veteran who continues to serve, both as a Veteran’s Affairs counselor and later as The Falcon. Emily VanCamp’s part, though small in scope for this movie, sets her up for future work in the Marvel universe and she is also involved in what I deem the most heroic moment of the movie. More on that later. One humorous note: the stand-in for Chris Evans is named Jordan Coulson. Just can’t keep a Coulson out of a Marvel movie, I guess.

Director of Photography Trent Opaloch (District 9, Elysium) and Production Designer Peter Wenham (Blood Diamond, The Queen) and their respective teams deserve mention for excellent work that creates a believable world for this conspiracy thriller. Given that there are fantastical elements to the story, it still looks and feels realistic. I suspect re-watching this in the future will yield some pleasant surprises; I missed some dialogue because I was laughing so hard at an unexpected Pulp Fiction reference planted in a scene (see if you notice it toward the end).

The story itself keeps a great tempo. The production team and editor Jeffrey Ford (The Avengers, Iron Man 3) give enough time for great human moments between Cap & the rest of the cast that establish these characters as people without slowing down the pace. One can tell that the characters give a damn about each other throughout. The various scenes between Captain America and the Black Widow set up the multiple levels of tension in that relationship very well. Evans and Johansson’s chemistry create belief that the two characters have worked together and gotten comfortable around each other since we saw them last. Scenes between Cap and Sam Wilson, meanwhile, have a very humanizing effect on the perception of Steve Rogers: he sees himself as just another veteran and relates to other vets as brothers-in-arms, there isn’t any of the celebrity attitude one finds in Tony Stark. Meanwhile, the bits of character we get from Bucky Barnes really leave me wanting more.   While great credit goes to the actors, I feel the directing team and editor deserve accolades for how well they’ve handled these relationships.

I feel great credit for this movie’s excellence goes to fight coordinator Chris Carnel (American History X, Iron Man) and the directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, & Dupree; Community). The fights and action sequences in CA:TWS are BRUTAL. The chief critique I have with hand to hand sequences in movies like the Bourne series is that while they are impressive, they are too fast in action and in the way they are shot to actually follow the story of what is happening in the fight. Not so in this movie: the fight sequences are a completely essential element of character and story development in CA:TWS. One sees from the very beginning just how hard Captain America hits with fist and shield which sets up just how dangerous the Winter Soldier is when they fight. The fights also set up that while Cap is a super-human, he’s still a mortal man who feels a punch and is not bullet proof. There is real danger for the heroes.

Without giving away too much of the story, I do want to mention my favorite moment of the movie had nothing to do with the “supers.” Right at the climax of the story, we see “normal” SHIELD techs & agents (to include Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter) faced with having to decide for themselves whether or not to do the right thing in the face of death. One particular technician becomes the biggest hero in the movie in my opinion because he lacks any sort of superpower in a superhero movie yet still decides to risk death for what’s right. This also leads to my chief critique of the movie: after that point the movie is full of regular humans fighting their hardest to do what’s right and sacrificing for it, but in the end none of them are effectual. It still comes down to just the superheroes. I think having those regular humans make more of a difference makes a greater testament to real heroism. That’s just me, though, and this is a movie about a superhero.

Having said that, CA:TWS is an excellent movie full of some very human moments, great action sequences, and heroism on many scales. It certainly changes the Marvel movie universe on a fundamental level. I believe it is a must-see for anyone interested in film for both the handling of the storytelling and to keep track of how this “megafranchise” beast that is likely to become the new paradigm works out. I’m anxious for the next installment.