Saturday, October 16, 2004

Best Conflicted Concert Review

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First of all, I didn't take this picture. It's not even from the concert that I went to. And yes, I realize it's too big.

So, finally, I'm getting around to writing about my DC trip last weekend. Ostensibly, my trip to DC was for several purposes, most revolving around the Holmes family: 1) To pick up a record player Shane had promised me, 2) To talk with Jen, because I like talking with Jen, 3) To meet their new kid, Oliver, and to continue getting to know Ainsley, and (this is a non-Holmes itinerary item) 4) To improve my relationship with Keri Holyoak from "Friend of Keri's sister" to "Friend of Keri." (Regarding these first four items, let me just say "mission accomplished", and that the photographic evidence of my success can be found at the bottom of this post.)

But why, of all the weekends available for me to run down to DC, did I pick this one for my trip? (Listen to me talking like every weekend I have is open for adventuring). Because the Cramps were playing DC, and seeing the Cramps with Shane in DC is just the right thing to do. Or I thought it was the right thing to do when I went down there. (I must insert this bit of information here: Before seeing the Cramps in DC, I had tried, and failed, to see them no less than 4 times before, my most recent failure being that I got to the club and watched the show be cancelled before my very eyes [my other inabilities to get to Cramps shows had to do with silly little things like not wanting to drive down to Orange County or being on chemotherapy] but had that Cramps show not been cancelled as I stood there, wanting my Cramps show, I'd enver have met a fellow called Evan Rocker and, believe me, that's a story in itself.) I'm sort of of two minds about my whole Cramps DC show experience, as I'll try to relate here.

Had I not actually made it to the Cramps concert, but wanted to pretend I had, my review of the show would go a little something like this: "Generally speaking, liking a certain band doesn't make you cool. Just because you bought a Franz Ferdinand T-shirt before they were selling them at Urban Outfitters doesn't necessarily make you any cooler than a kid in a Slayer t-shirt. However, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that there are certain bands that aren't just definitely cool bands (or artists) themselves, but it actually makes you undoubtedly a cool person for liking them--it just reflects such good taste and commitment to a higher standard of awesome that there's no denying it, you're cool just for liking them. What bands might I be talking about? Here's a few to start with: Einsturzende Neubauten, Le Tigre, Johnny Cash, John Coltrane. No one can honestly say to someone "You just like Johnny Cash because he's cool" because that's so beside the point, Johnny Cash is, was, and always will be as cool as a musician can be and it doesn't matter if 500 million people have a photo of him flippin' off the camera or no one does at all, Cash is cool whether or not you're on board and that's all there is to it. I think that these bands that are perfect in their coolness all draw their strength from the fact that they do not waiver in theit commitment to some underlying principle of their art--be it banging on metal if you're Einsturzende Neubauten or banging political pop if you're Le Tigre (Note: I'm not nearly cool enough to be a full on Le Tigre fan. Just want to clear that up).

Well, one band that's definitely on this a priori list of cool is the Cramps, the world's premiere psychobilly band. What is the unwaivering principle that bolts down their cool? I'd say its a commitment to being around forever and playing the music Buddy Holly would've played, were he some sort of deviant backwoods rockabilly zombie. The Cramps, like William S. Burroughs was, are a monster, an abominable coupling of undeniable talent (of some sort) with unquestionably questionable tastes and just like it seemed like the old junky wouldn't ever die, the notion that the Cramps (who got their start in the late 70s) are touring always evokes the response "You mean they're still around?" It's one thing to sing rock n roll zombie songs as a young band, another thing altogether to sing as a band where everyone is looking like they might be more than half way to being actual zombies.

My fictional review would've gone on to describe the Cramps show in DC as the most primally cool thing I'd ever witnessed, but my real life Cramps review goes like this:

The Cramps are old and the cramps are creepy, but not as old and as creepy as their fans and now, as a fellow who is growing older (creepier? I don't know, you tell me) by the day, I must really ask myself if I want to be counted amongst their ranks. Already I think the answer is "yes", but only through a loose connection to the band, mostly because the Cramps logo is SO cool.

Oh man, this post is getting so long and I can't even tell if you like reading it or not. I'm going to cut to the chase:

The show was a little too much for me. I don't like being crushed between portly middle-aged men wearing saggy laytex and punks with mohawks that could take out my eye. I had always imagined that the Cramps lead singer, Lux Interior, would be viciously cool and strung out--it turns out that most of the time he acts like a cross between Gollum and the gay neighbor from some 70s sitcom. And he talks about ancient Egypt too much. Lux's stage presence is so over the top that it's easy to forget there's anyone else on stage--mostly because the guitarist, Poison Ivy, just stands there and scowls (I had thought, coming into the concert, that Poison Ivy kept it cool at all times, turns out she keeps it bored looking and scowly) and their bassist, something of a real-life rockabilly Frankenstein doesn't move much either. But I've got to give mad props to the band's current drummer (they've had lots of drummers, so I have no idea what this guy's name is) dude looked just like an old Sun Records studio musician, I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out he really was one. He had one job during the concert, to play the same beat the entire thing, and he did it quite well.

I'm going to wrap this up, I've rambled so much it's embarassing. A serious problem with the concert, and this may be the key problem: the band played so many songs that I had never ever heard before or couldn't recognize at all--and I like to think I know a lot of their songs, the end result was I eventually lost interest in hearing songs I didn't know and watching Lux act weirder than he needed to (so much talking). I had expected them to just play all their hits from "A Date with Elvis", but I was wrong. At the end of the show, I just felt I was out too late with too weird a bunch of people and that either the Cramps didn't live up to the mythological image of them I had had, or that I didn't live up to the image of what they really were. It wasn't a case of something not living up to my expectations, more like my expectations not living up to some thing.

But Anyway Want to see some pictures? Here's Shane and Ainsley, Jen and Oliver, then me when I couldn't get into the Masonic Temple Sunday afternoon (I had been told it was "better than Disneyland"), and then Keri Holyoak, not getting into the Masonic Temple either.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you know of The Zutons? They aren't an answer to the Cramps, but when you talk about cool logos, these guys have it too because 1. a Z in their name (which I think lends all sorts of coolness to a name) 2. it's very comic book/ futuristic horror flick. Check it out. Oh and their music too, I caught the last 2 songs of their set at the Troubadour a few months ago, and I liked those 2 songs. Plus, they have a tiny female sax player who was rockin' and bobbin' and playing barefoot...oh my!