Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rocket from the Tombs - Boat Burning -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Dec 7 2015

Boat Burning - The show starts on time for a change, ergo the patrons are quite slow to file in. But this local band has 4-5 guitars, bass, and drums along with some keys to fill the empty spaces. This is always a fine set, one I have seen many times now, although the quiet opening made it a little less compelling than usual with the opening cuts. However about half way through, the beats became interesting and the sound and energy improved where I became more absorbed in their methodical droning sheets of melodic guitar noise. And it is always better to start slow and finish strong, which is exactly what they did tonight, giving the incoming crowd a good sonic vibe to prepare for the next band. Whether they line up with 4 guitars, 20 guitars, or 70 guitars (yes they did that a while back), you should definitely put Boat Burning on your short list of bands to check out.
photo: Davis White 
Rocket from the Tombs - I was looking forward for this one for a long time... beware of expectations. After eschewing travel plans to distant cities to go to catch this essential band in their ultra-short mini-tours, they finally included DC this time around. While I was still a little too young in 1974 and isolated in southern Ohio while Cleveland spawned this amazing pre-punk band that ultimately connected the Stooges and the Ramones et al as much as anyone did; I was fully engaged there in the late 70s for the bands that spawned from the original five members: Pere Ubu, Dead Boys, and Mirrors. Although Rocket lasted for less than a year, they have now been back, off and on, for over a decade.

Original members Craig Bell and David Thomas are here with two 'newer' guitarists and Pere Ubu drummer Steve Mehlman. The lead guitarist is quite good, although somehow the energy does not seem to be quite there, and I am really missing the Cheetah Chrome-Richard Lloyd duelling guitar battles (let alone original guitarist Peter Laughner who died in 1977). The band is solid and plays the strong heavy psyche-rock style of their time with speed bursts that foreshadowed punk rock. They have old and new originals with garage covers such as their opener 'Shape of Things to Come', a 1968 cut from the movie 'Wild in the Streets', which really creeped me out as 'my' Dayton band, Toxic Reasons used to cover it and also featured a large and larger than life lead singer.

And speaking of singers, a rather frail David Thomas stood for a bit, until doing the rest of the set seated, getting up only to berate the drummer and threaten to leave early. His odd voice is still there and works well enough, unlike the rest of his odd personality. Yeah, it's rock'n'roll and Cleveland punk rock was a nasty ferocious little scene that really was as big and important as any in the mid-to-late seventies. Between, this band, their descendant bands, Electric Eels, and the Styrenes, we can only be glad there weren't (m)any guns at the shows, as I am not sure who would have survived.

Weird and dangerous as this was, and knowing that the danger can really bring excitement to a show, somehow the power and energy was a bit lacking and I just did not feel a real Rocket from the Tombs vibe that I believe I would have gotten on their first comeback tour. I am still glad I caught them and would do it all over again as this music is brilliant and essential.

Quotes of the Night: Quite a few oddities from Mr. Thomas, but I'll relate his comments regarding his one guitarist breaking strings on two occasions...

"You broke a string? That's coming out of your salary."
DT: (paraphrasing) I need to fill time and talk (while guitarist gets a third guitar after second broken string). You see what it would be like without me in the band? Well I am just going to sit here. Where are the drums....  (standing) "Mehlman, you asshole!"

SM: "If you just looked around, you realize it wasn't me....  OK, it's me"

DT: "What, you broke another string again!"

For funnier quotes from the wacky Cleveland scene, see my review of the Styrenes from the Velvet Lounge in 2010.


MJG196 said...

Makes me wonder if Dave Thomas is necessary here, anymore. Get Cheetah!!!!

David Hintz said...

Agreed, although Mr. Thomas explained why it was necessary for him to be in the band, and then proved why it was not. In spirit, we do miss Cheetah and I'd love to see Cheetah Chrome back, but his distaste for the road and staying with his family are pretty good reasons why we won't see him take the stage too often.