It was 7 p.m. on Easter Sunday, and I was just laying down for a nap when I looked at my phone and noticed a tweet from CityBeat staff writer Alex Zaragoza: "At Bar Pink for a super not so secret Rocket from the Crypt show. Are you aware of this shindig @PeterHolslin?"
Five minutes later, I was on my bike, pedaling as fast as I could to the North Park bar.
By the time I got to Bar Pink at around 7:15 p.m., the place wasn't even close to being at capacity, but the audience was rapt, pressing close to the stage. For the next hour or so, I was treated to a free set that was announced at the last minute—a warm-up for a reunion tour through Europe in April—by one of San Diego's most badass rock bands.
Though Rocket hasn't been active for eight years, they're still well versed in the art of smash, bash and grind. As frontman John "Speedo" Reis barked himself hoarse, he and guitarist N.D. dished up forceful, bottom-heavy riffs over tight, punchy horn hooks (courtesy of saxophonist Apollo 9 and trumpeter JC 2000) and a lithe, rhythmic beating from bassist Petey X and drummer Ruby Mars. The audience mostly kept calm, but there were plenty of cheers and pumped fists as the band spanned its catalog with songs like "Born in '69," "Ditch Digger" and "When in Rome."
The guys didn't wear matching suits, as they've been known to do in the past. But Reis certainly showed off his flair for oratory: In an epic take on "Come See, Come Saw," over a bruising bass-and-drums breakdown, Speedo spun an elaborate, head-scratching tale about the wicked ways of a force called The Beat, which, he said, almost sodomized one of his bandmates.
Of course, a lot has changed since the '90s, when Rocket released most of their material. At one point, when Reis told the audience to raise their lighters in celebration, only one guy did. A handful of others held up camera-phones instead. But unlike some of the rock that emerged in the '90s and early '00s, which now sounds rusty and dated, Rocket's visceral, brass-plated stuff still holds firm.
I can only imagine that audiences will be getting good and sweaty in Europe and when the band plays at Long Beach's Ink-N-Iron festival in June.
If you missed Sunday's surprise show, too bad for you.