The announcement proclaiming the return of trash rockers Rocket From The Crypt was met with excitement and anticipation. They are a band I’ve wanted to see in the flesh since hearing the crushing aural earworm that is the song most synonymous with the name – ‘On A Rope‘. It’s been 15 years since the Crypt were last in Belfast (with consideration towards their long hiatus to pursue other projects including, ahem, Angels and Airwaves…), performing at the Art College’s Conor Hall in 2002 – a stage graced by many hard-hitting acts back in the day and the site of the infamous theft of Speedo’s stagewear. Thanks to the efforts of Strange Victory, the band came back to perform at The Black Box alongside fellow San Diegan garage trio The Schizophonics.
Prior to this event, I had never heard of The Schizophonics. There was a strong buzz circulating around the announcement of their support on the tour. From first impressions, as a live act, they are incredibly impressive. From the get-go, the band were driven by a relentless energy matched by the sweat-drenched Pat Beers [Vocalist/ Guitarist] with his manic and sharp movements. Pat, throughout the set, was throwing himself around the stage carelessly, doing the splits, rolling around the venue and jumping into the crowd bringing the action to the punters up front – all whilst attending to his musical duties which were held tightly together by the powerful rhythms of Lety Beers [drums] and their touring bassist. Reminiscent of the likes of MC5 and The Stooges in musical character and presence, The Schizophonics were explosive and engaging, with a grit and deranged attitude that showed the trio were there on a mission to leave a large dent in Belfast.
Following a short interval, the crowd retreated from the bar to get prime viewing space for tonight’s main attraction. Stuck in the middle [way oh way oh], I found myself caught between the tightly-packed crowd and a stage monitor with camera in hand. On marched Rocket From The Crypt with Speedo [John Reis] opening the set with his charismatic wit, showing concern ‘for the wellbeing of the audience’ [sic] before slinging on his guitar. The band kicked into ‘Sturdy Wrist‘ with its crunchy riffage and pop dynamism in choruses with horns a-go, setting the scene for their whole performance – steamrolling their way over the Black Box.
The first 7 songs of tonight’s set featured songs from 1992’s Circa Now, followed by ventures into RFTC , Live From Camp X-Ray  and Group Sounds , before reaching a selection of tunes from the seminal 1995 banger that is Scream Dracula Scream. The band’s set was littered with fan favourites, accentuating their strong legacy of infectious and groovy songwriting from all corners of their career. Between Speedo’s distinguishable vocals and flamboyant stage presence, Atom’s unchained drumming and the constant sonic pummeling generated collectively with Petey X, Notorious ND and Apollo 9 – Rocket From The Crypt were an unstoppable and dominating force in the Black Box, sharp to the tongue in music and conversation. Speedo was sharing the love with the audience between songs and tongue-in-cheek stories involving hotel rooms and misinterpreted orgasmic sounds. Reading the band’s faces, they were happy to be here and more importantly, in the zone as the aural thrashing continued from all members – riff after riff, beat after beat, horn after horn, huge chorus after the next.
The highlights of this performance included opener ‘Sturdy Wrist‘, ‘I’m Not Invisible‘, ‘Don’t Darlene‘ and the holy trinity – ‘Middle‘, ‘Born in ’69‘ and the supreme ‘On A Rope‘ back to back that sent eager punters into a frenzy stage front and forced tins of beers [in their new bought beer cosies] down the hatch to participate. The machine-gun snare and chant of ‘Middle’ got the crowd on their toes, and personally, hyped me up to the moon. Regardless of how many times I’ve played that album, it still generates the same effect. However, I waited 15 years to hear ‘On A Rope‘ live and it was [excuse my French] f****** surreal. Another treat ticked off the bucket list.
Performing ‘Come See, Come Saw‘ as tonight’s encore, Speedo continued his engagement by stepping into the crowd, pointing into faces and commanding reciprocation to the vocals required. Drenched in sweat, all members then exited the stage to well-deserved rest backstage following this exhilarating set.
If there was a way to summarise this gig in a single line, it’s Rocket From The Crypt destroyed Belfast. All hail the Crypt!
Click on the photo below to view the entire gallery by Steven Donnelly on Flickr