"Did I miss anything?" Rocket From the Tombs bassist Craig Bell asked the Beachland crowd, early in the band's reunion show last week. As Bell took the mic, it seemed as if no one in the band had missed a thing, though it's been nearly 30 years since they've performed together in their hometown.
One of the most influential bands ever to come from Cleveland, Rocket From the Tombs was the punk precursor to such storied acts as Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys. The Beachland gig was the band's first in Cleveland since the mid-'70s, when guitarist Peter Laughner was a central figure in the lineup. (Former Television guitarist Richard Lloyd now plays in place of Laughner, who died of complications from alcohol abuse two years after the group disbanded.) Rocket's return was rewarded with a packed house that paired mohawked twentysomethings with graying rock-and-roll dads.
Nonchalantly taking the stage after a strong set from Cobra Verde, the Tombs built up momentum slowly. Frontman David Thomas, wielding a cane in one hand and a flask in the other, worked himself into a sweaty fit that required him to sit down frequently and cool off with a Budweiser. That's when the rest of the band shined: Cheetah Chrome brought the show to a boil early with a snarling take on "Ain't It Fun," sweat glistening off his shiny dome as he belted out the gritty slow-burner like a surly Springsteen. It was followed by a smoldering "Sonic Reducer," which incited a pit in the crowd.
The show's highlight came with "30 Seconds Over Tokyo," the band's velocity transforming the Beachland into a virtual wind tunnel. Rocket closed its set with "Final Solution," then returned to bash out an angry "Life Stinks" for the encore. Thomas then parted the crowd like a meaty Moses, stepping off the stage and into a throng of waiting fans. Rocket From the Tombs may not have missed much, but plenty of people have missed them.
· There's fat cash up for grabs at Fat Fish Blue: Every Tuesday night this summer, the downtown blues club hosts a talent contest for aspiring singers and musicians. Each weekly winner receives a prize, and the grand-prize winner, crowned on September 16, goes home with $1,000. And that could be just the beginning: The Swamp Boogie Queens, past winners of the competition, now play the club regularly. Call Fat Fish Blue at 216-875-6000 for more details.
· Baldwin-Wallace College's WBWC-FM 88.3 will host a U2 marathon from 7 a.m. Thursday, June 12, to 1 a.m. Friday, June 13. It's held in conjunction with the Rock Hall's U2 fan-appreciation day on the 14th; portions will be broadcast from the Hall's Alan Freed Studio. Send e-mail requests to [email protected].
· When you're hot, you're hot: C.J. Gunn, guitarist for promising local rockers Venus in Flames, has joined up with former Ramones drummer Marky Ramone in the new band Marky Ramone and Friends. The group, which also features Clevelander David Divine on vocals and former Lynch Mob bassist Anthony Esposito, will perform Ramones standards at the Rock Hall on June 26 and may tour later this year. "It's a big thrill," says Gunn. "Growing up, the Ramones were my favorite band in the world. So this is a very big dream come true."