Live Review: Rocket From The Crypt and the Schizophonics at the Black Box, Belfast

With all due respect to that cookie-crunching, kiss-stealing, sleigh-bell-loving, toy-slinging son of a gun known as Santa Claus, there's only one appearance this scribe is super excited about this Christmas and that's from (*dramatic pause*) Rocket From The Crypt. After leaving no arse unkicked at their Dublin show four years ago, the suspiciously youthful looking San Diego natives finally make their way back to Belfast and we're more than a little excited to witness their self described “Big Sound,” especially as it's been 15 years since the garage rockers last graced the city.

But before we get to RFTC, we arrive nice and early to see plucky trio the Schizophonics take a Chinese Burn-like approach to warming the crowd up. Buoyed by one of the best and most explosive frontmen on the underground rock scene right now (the magnificently named Pat Beers), the band are an utter revelation, converting everyone in the audience to their church of noise from the get-go. Informed by the MC5, the Sonics,the Stooges and the various musical incarnations of RFTC frontman John “Speedo” Reis, they bludgeon us over the head with their bluesy riffs played at eardrum battering volume. Beers is part proto-punk preacher man, part professional wrestler and writhes, rolls and rocks out with little thought for his own personal health and it's impossible to take your eyes off him throughout their set. Don't be too surprised if you see the mainstream knocking at their door at some stage.

After a quick breather, Rocket From The Crypt hit the stage decked out in their now traditional matching sparkly stage clothes (punks love sequins too, you know). Sporting a slight (and temporary) shift in line-up since their resurrection in 2013, original drummer Atom replaces Ruby Mars behind the drum-kit and trumpet player JC 2000 sits out the whole tour either because he's wanted for a crime he didn't commit and now exists as a soldier of fortune (A-Team style!) or he can't be arsed flying to Europe (we love you regardless JC!).

In short, as I'm sure you're all aware, this is the fabled Circa: Now! line-up and they sound as solid as King Kong's couch. While it does take your humble scribe a few songs to get into the groove, once 'Killy Kill,' and particularly the neck-bothering 'Boychucker' kick in, it's all systems go, if you pardon the obvious RFTC-related pun. There are highlights aplenty tonight and the bullet-proof, hook-laden 'I'm Not Invisible,' evergreen 'Born In '69' and anthemic 'Dick On A Dog' are among them as singer/guitarist Speedo effortlessly illustrates he's still one of the most charismatic frontmen alive.

I do miss JC 2000's righteous horn (yep) on 'Straight American Slave,' but it's a minor quibble to make of one of the finest rock shows this city has ever witnessed. The sheer power of the quintet really is something to behold and during much of the material Speedo's right arm could rival down on his luck, long haul truck driving arm wrestler Lincoln Hawk himself in terms of strength (Over The Top, bitches). Here's hoping it won't take another 15 years for their return. Give it up for the band!


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