In what can hardly be described as a cash- in, Rocket from the Crypt reunited in December 2012, beginning their first dates of their reunion tour in April 2013. Championed back in the 90s by the likes of Dave Grohl – who is consistently linked to on/off rumours about producing Rocket from the Crypt’s comeback record- the San Diego band showed oodles of promise when they signed to Interscope in the mid-90s, even cracking the top 20 in the UK with ‘On a Rope’ and appearing on Top of the Pops; unheard of for a band borne out of the west coast hardcore scene of the 80s/early 90s. Their 1995 breakthrough record, Scream, Dracula, Scream!, sounds as fresh and vital, today, as it did back then.
Tonight, there’s no shortage of greying rockabilly quiffs and RFTC t-shirt-clad fans who would probably claim to have bought the original, red-coloured vinyl – deleted immediately after release – of 1995’s once ultra rare, though since reissued, Hot Charity. The band’s set caters, mainly, to those loyal and fervent fans of the band, playing cuts from Scream, Dracula, Scream!, as well as 1998’s RFTC and 2001’s Group Sounds, all of which are well represented tonight. In fact, many of the songs from each album are played in the same sequence as the records: ‘Straight American Slave’ and ‘Carne Voodoo’ from Group Sounds open the set, while the highlight of the night is a groove in the set created by ‘Middle’, ‘Born in ‘69’, ‘On a Rope’ and ‘Young Livers’, which elicit the loudest cheers of the night from an otherwise reserved audience. An incredible version of ‘I’m Not Invisible’ is a reminder, like the best cuts from Scream, Dracula, Scream!, of the band’s ability to write instantly catchy songs that get the audience on their side from the get-go.
Clad in black shirts featuring Chinese dragons, the band members look like a gang and, in 2013, they must seem an anomaly among younger bands, now, that lack the uniformity and that sense of identity that was has been central to Rocket from the Crypt as a unit. Unfortunately, the central problem throughout tonight’s set, however, is the sound. What set Rocket from the Crypt apart from any other American rock band of their time was their use of a brass section in the form of saxophonist Apollo 9 (Paul O’Beirne) and trumpeter JC 2000 (Jason Crane), both of whose instruments are far too low in the mix to have the impact that they have on record. Similarly, frontman Speedo’s vocals are slightly shot from previous gigs on their recent tour and, again, his vocals are consistently overshadowed by the guitars and by the drums.
A extended version of ‘Come See, Come Saw’, again, lacks the punch and power of the brass section, though the band use the recurring bass riff as an opportunity to loosen up the set and make it seem loose and unpredictable. Speedo interacts with the audience in irony- laced showbiz theatrics, including directing the audience into dance routines.
Eschewing such bravado, Speedo salutes the audience for one last time during the night. “Thanks for not forgetting about us”, he says as he parts from the stage, somewhat confirming the band’s status as 90’s rock survivors. And if rumors of a Grohl- produced comeback album do come to fruition, it won’t be the last time Speedo is saluting his audience from the stage.
Photograph by Greg Jacobs.