Tuesday, August 14, 2012

REVIEW - The Cramps Live at Napa State Mental Hospital

On June 13th, 1978 THE CRAMPS performed live at the Napa Valley Mental Institute in Napa, CA. They were actually one of two bands that performed that day, The Mutants, a San Francisco based punk band, being the other.

The event was recorded on a early hand held video recorder connected to a portable backpack (Sony Portapak Video Camera). The footage is black and white, grainy, and the sound muddled, but it actually adds to the punk aesthetic of the footage, in a weird kind of way.

(Sony Porta pack in action)

The band was set up on a small stage just slightly raised above floor level, with a series of steps leading into the audience. From the moment the music began members of the audience jump onstage, dancing and grooving to the music, warmly accepted by Lux Interior who interacts with them throughout the show. In fact, the amazing thing about this video is the lack of separation between band and inmates, almost as if they meld into one, audience members becoming part of the band and Lux becoming part of the crowd. He repeatedly tosses his mic down onstage or hands it to an inmate while he roams and writhes around. The inmates in turn  scream and shout unintelligible phrases into the mic, adding to the manic energy of the show. 

The band members of the Cramps at this time was Lux Interior, Poison Ivy, Nick Knox and Brian Gregory. They're young and raw and you can see why tux is considered one of the best front men of all time. There's nothing forced or fake about him, he simply reacts instinctively to the music and the audience, embracing the chaos and using it as part of the show.

There are a couple of breaks in the video where it seems like a song or two might be missing, but the ones recorded are:

Mystery Plane, The Way I Walk, What's Behind the Mask, Human Fly, Domino, Love Me, Twist and Shout, and TV Set. It is mind boggling to imagine a punk band being allowed to play in a mental institute, much less with lyrics like: 

i cut your head off and put it in my tv set 
i use your eyeballs for dials on my tv set
oh baby i see you in my frigidaire 
yeah baby i see you in my frigidaire 
behind the mayonnaise, way in the back 
i'm gonna see you tonight for a midnight snack 
but though it's cold you won't get old
 'cause you're well preserved in my frigidaire yahhhhhhh

But it did happen, and thank goodness it was preserved for posterity. It was released on DVD through Target Video - not the retail chain, but some small video outfit in the 80s. 

You can get a copy through Amazon or watch it on youtube - in fact, I'll post it below for your enjoyment. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!


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