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.