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Rocket From The Crypt - RIP

  by Russell Ferguson

published: 22 / 3 / 2008

Rocket From The Crypt - RIP


Rocket from the Crypt played their farewell show on Halloween night 2005 in their home city of San Diego. With a DVD of that show having just come out, Russell Ferguson looks at it, and, after a fire at it director's house, the miracle that it has been made at all

Early on in their career Rocket from the Crypt would play as often as they could in their hometown on Halloween night and, dressing up in suitable attire, they would play to a small but appreciative audience. As the years rolled on and they their popularity grew this annual event became less predictable, Being in Germany midway through a European tour has it drawbacks. Rocket from the Crypt (RFTC) didn’t so much as end with a flurry or an explosion, but more fizzled out amidst the confusion of poor record sales, lack of interest from their record label and band members being in too many sideline projects. All these reasons simply sapped the energy out of the band. When you decide where your last gig is going to be and that you really meant what you said about keeping your feet on the ground and not being one of those over hyped plastic bands who were full of more hot air that a ballooning festival, there was ever only going to be in the case of RFTC one place to play and one date at that too. San Diego, 31 October 2005, was to be the last night that RFTC would play, and took place three years after the band had recorded their last album and effectively stopped touring. They assembled a small crew of film makers which was lead by a close friend of the band, Marc Garris, who coordinated events as the film crew set out to record the last breaths of an, ailing, dying rock and roll band. To make amends for their limp exit a few years previously this was going to be a night of energy, a night of celebration, a night where the crowd would witness a fireball of a comet crash to earth with the impact of an earthquake registering 9.9 on the Richter scale. As this DVD proves, they nearly did what they set out to do and that in many ways sums up RFTC. They nearly did what they set out to do, but didn’t quite get there. 'RIP' comes with an accompanying CD of the same gig. The soundtrack has a rawness that you only get with a live recording but what makes it work so well is that it hasn’t been cleaned up by too much modification. It isn’t burdened by heavy post production techniques that so many live recordings suffer from. It still retains enough raw quality of a live gig to elevate itself above many previous attempts. It is true that some of the glitches have been removed and a little work has been done to make the sound a little sharper, but this benefits the overall sound rather than works to its detriment. The DVD starts with a grand, overblown introduction that only an American audience might appreciate. For the rest of us it borders on the sickly sweet to the bullshit of meaningless rhetoric. The introduction comes from El Vez, a sort of modern Mexican Elvis who has close ties with the band. Singer and guitarist John "Speedo" Reis comes on stage in a coffin carried head high from the back of the venue to the stage. The rest of the guys are on stage waiting to start. The first 5 - 10 minutes of this DVD is just cabaret full of words that were designed to create an atmosphere, but all it does is annoy you until you finally hear yourself thinking just get on with it. Thankfully the start is the worst part of the whole DVD. As soon as RFTC crack up and start doing what they do best it becomes compelling watching. Getting the essence of a live performance on to tape and transferring that energy to the small screen has eluded many bands. It’s a mystery why this is so elusive. Whatever the reason many live performances become something of a let down. 'RIP' has succeeded where many have failed in that it does deliver the goods.It borders on having the same energy that you get at a gig. For a tape to do that is quite an achievement in itself. It, however, never truly projects you to the gig, No recording of a live band can ever do that. Some things in life you simply have to experience for yourself and going to a live gig is one of those experiences. The film is far from a slick affair. It doesn’t quite fall apart, but it constantly teeters on the edge of the abyss without ever actually falling into chaos. There are times especially at the beginning of the DVD where the camera angles jump around too much. Some of the shots are out of focus and this makes it hard to concentrate on what’s going on. It makes you sort of seasick in a curious way. As the gig progresses this becomes less apparent and makes it much easier to watch and enjoy. Some might say that I am missing the point and that this jumping about and the disorder of the cameras is what makes it works so well. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. It really depends upon what your point of view are. It was in fact nothing of a miracle in fact that this particular DVD ever got made at all. A fire at the home of Marc Garris, who was doing the editing, destroyed most of the finished project. What you see isn’t the intended finished article but actually a collection of rough cuts that were in effect stuck together. It is funny how this has got so much attention from the music press and has been praised by so many people as being one of the best live records for a long time when in its is present form it is is fact almost an accidnet I was never a big RFTC fan but 'RIP' is a fine testament for a band that never quite set the charts alight with their particular brand of music. Their brightest moment came in 1996 with ‘On A Rope.’ RFTC may never quite got there, but this complication somehow elevates them to above their past best. It seems with their dying breath they were at their very best. Welcome to the perplexing world of rock and roll.

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