An appreciative audience in the Sphere got a chance to sample the psychobilly weirdness of the Cramps on Friday night.
For most musicians, time on the "underground" scene is spent with the idea that they're only a song or gig away from a big break, upon which they can bask in the spotlight and live the high life.
But in the case of the Cramps, who brought their legendary psychotic sleaze-rock act to the Sphere on Friday night, some simply belong underground and are quite content there.
Although they made their name around the turn of the '80s with regular shows at New York's famous punk club CBGB's, the Cramps are not a punk band -- they're just punks.
Demented soul mates and founding members Lux Interior (vocals) and Poison Ivy Rorschach (guitar) are the creators of a sound they like to call "psychobilly," which is basically 1950s rockabilly mixed with a little surf rock and a lot of drugs. Despite this obvious massive drug use, the two have maintained their vision together for more than a quarter-century. Holding on to fellow members, however, has been a tall order.
Their revolving door of band mates is currently held shut by Chopper Franklin (bass) and Harry Drumdini (you guessed it, drums).
Taking the stage wearing a two-piece, red latex suit with a black jacket two sizes too small and sunglasses, Interior, bottle of wine in hand, had rock star written all over him.
As Rorschach began the mean riffs of "Dames, Booze, Chains and Boots" that were matched only by the look on her face, Interior's howling and malevolent sauntering around the stage gave the crowd of about 500 plenty of nightmare fodder.
Although his yelling into the faces of front-row dwellers and jumping onto speakers was amusing, there was at least one member of the audience who wouldn't have minded if Interior could've kept his hands out of his pants for the hour-and-a-half-long set.
After tearing through a few older hits, including "Garbageman" and "Muleskinner Blues," the band dived into a selections from their latest release, "Fiends of Dope Island," beginning with the spaced-out "Fissure of Rolando."
Interior thanked the "alien hunters" (I think he was referring to the crowd) and proceeded with a few minutes of utter nonsensical babble before ripping into a couple new bluesy numbers, "Papa Satan Sang Louie" and "Big Black Witchcraft Rock."
Both featured solid solos from Rorschach, whose hard-driving sound is clearly the driving force in the band. Following a great bass solo by Franklin during "TV Set," one of its original tunes, the band kicked it up a notch, closing with raging versions of "Psychotic Reaction" and "The Crusher." The Cramps sent the crowd off with a 10-minute encore version of the Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird," which allowed Rorschach to play relentlessly, while Interior maniacally darted around the stage.
Whether it was to the rest of the audience, exiting the Sphere on Friday night was certainly a welcome return to sanity for this writer, who will not soon forget witnessing the outright insanity that is the Cramps.
-- Seamus Gallivan