Reliving The Past That I Missed


Title: Damned I’m Cramped

I grew up in a part of the Seattle metropolitan area affectionately known as Rat City. At that point in time, in the late 70s and early 80s, it was a lower middle class blue collar town of predominantly white people.

In that setting, the two avenues of music that were generally available to me was the AC/DC style of heavy metal or the Judas Priest style of heavy metal (I was pretty solidly in the AC/DC camp). If you want to see a pretty much spot-on documentary on how I and my friends were at that time, I’d advise you to go to youTube and find Heavy Metal Parking Lot. It is exactly what the title claims. Someone brought video equipment and filmed the crowd gathering before a Judas Priest concert. At one time, this was almost lost footage that would play very rarely in theaters (it’s about 30 minutes long). I remember seeing it for the first time about fifteen years ago in an art house theater as part of a documentary collection and I almost pissed myself in some bizarre combination of laughter and shame.

Because of that, even though I lived through the height of the punk movement, none of my friends were into it all. I didn’t have the sense / self confidence to go to shows on my own, and then later I married a woman who didn’t enjoy music at all. So, even though I really enjoy punk music and I was at an age where it would have been just about perfect for me to go such shows, I completely missed them. The fact that I easily could have seen the Ramones live in really small venues occasionally causes pain in my soul.

Now I’m much older and I have no problems at all going to shows on my own. As you can imagine, the pickings are pretty slim. You might have some copy of some punk band with possibly one original member show up to play their hits. I saw X play their Los Angeles album live in its entirety one New Years Eve some years ago.

Sometimes I have to make do. I noticed that a cover / tribute band was opening for another band at the Funhouse called Damned I’m Cramped. They do two sets, in the first one they cover The Cramps and in the second they cover The Damned. The Cramps are one of my favorite bands and The Damned are about as O.G. punk rock as you can get. Seriously, their drummer was named Rat Scabies.

This one I had to go to. I had an absolutely great time.

For the Cramps set, the lead singer tried his hardest to channel Lux Interior. He showed up on the stage in a tight leather one piece, a fur coat, long gloves, and eye makeup. Several times, he gave a blow job to the microphone by taking the head of it into his mouth (a signature Lux movement). He climbed on top of speakers. He danced into the crowd. He was buzzing around while singing the Human Fly.

For The Damned part, he changed character. Still wearing the leather one piece, he now also wore a leather jacket and sun glasses. He snarled and spat the lyrics.

The band was tight. The songs were awesome. I much prefer The Cramps songs to The Damned, but they absolutely kicked ass on The Damned songs. The Damned’s two most famous songs, Neat Neat Neat and New Rose. were absolutely blistering.

The band was not a group of young men. The bassist looked like nothing more than some corporate cubicle rat putting in his thirty years. The rhythm guitar was a paunchy bald man that looked like maybe he managed a local parts store. Towards the end of the show, the singer turned to the lead guitarist and thanked him, saying that it wasn’t for him that the singer would be a sad karaoke singer somewhere. You get the feeling that there was truth in what he was saying.

But on stage, this motley group of aging men absolutely killed it and they looked like they were having a blast.

Sometimes I think about the economics of the music business, especially those bands that are opening acts for places like the Funhouse.  There was maybe two hundred people in the audience. My ticket cost eight dollars. I bought two PBRs.

How much can an opening act make? I then look at the band and I get it. For a couple of hours, they get to be rock gods. The money is just icing.

And for me, even though I missed out on the real thing, it was great for me to hear songs that I love played live. Not as good as the real thing, but still a hell of a lot of fun.



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