An Evening Of Affirmation

BILL WOOD | APRIL 19, 2019

How many times have you heard the phrase “rock’n’roll is dead”? I know, I’ve heard it a few times myself. And while this statement may certainly be true in terms of the cultural zeitgeist, this time-tested musical genre is still shakin' its geriatric pelvis in certain quarters. Maybe it’s like that black bear that hibernates for the long winter; a bit harder to locate, lying in wait for its moment of reemergence. Or maybe it’s hidden in plain sight at one of those posh outdoor music festivals that are currently headlined by auto-tuned mega-celebrities. Or maybe—just maybe—the feral spirit of this once-mighty beast has transmogrified in the deepest, dankest corner of a dimly-lit nightclub on the western periphery of the United States.


Case in point: The Discovery Ventura, where I recently witnessed a band by the moniker of The Creepy Creeps opening for psychobilly legend The Reverend Horton Heat. Now, I’ve seen the good Rev on five occasions (tying him on my personal gig list with another one my all-time favorite live acts, KISS), and he always brings a smile to the face, not to mention a solid opening act along for his tour. After all, it was on such an occasion that I first laid eyes on The Legendary Shack Shakers, who within the space of 40-odd minutes catapulted themselves to actual legendary status in my eyes. In any case, I decided to preview a few Creeps videos before the upcoming Ventura gig and was duly impressed. They looked like a good time.


However, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience that unassuming Tuesday evening, in that sun-bleached habitat of surfboards and cervezas.


Picture this if you will; A minuscule bandstand bathed in house fog and eerie green light. At either side, two scantily-clad go-go dancers emerge, taking their place on pedestals, where they will spend the next hour grinding away and sacrificing their souls to the caterwaul of feedback behind them. The band saunters lazily onstage, decked out in Planet of the Apes-style horror masks and tattered 60’s mod clothing. Finally, a cheerleader of sorts enters the fray to cavort with the audience, and by “cheerleader” I mean a 300 lb. hulk of a man decked out in a three-piece suit, a fez, and a lucha mask. Before a single note is struck, the mission is unmistakably clear; we are here to kick your collective asses (and hopefully sell some merch). The mostly older crowd keeps their distance, preferring to cradle their Coronas from a safe vantage point.


The bassist briefly introduces The Creepy Creeps before launching headfirst into their first song. What ensues is an onslaught of ‘60s-inspired, three-chords-if-you're-lucky, surf-punk fury that I will never, ever forget as long as I live. The Creeps' presence is undeniable. The impossibly tall guitarist kicks and shimmies onstage, the go-go dancers and masked cheerleader sway in rhythm to compliment the chaos. As I am nearly buttressed against the stage, this hulking luchador bumps into me on at least five occasions, each time accompanied by a friendly pat on the shoulder. The band is ear-splittingly loud—loud enough that it is difficult to hear the live drums while standing directly in front of the stage. The vocals are a complete wash-out, For the up-close crowd, The Creeps may as well be instrumentalists.


The music is fast, fun, and perfectly sloppy, inspired by garage-punk icons such as The Sonics and The Mummies. To reinforce this point, they include a Mummies cover in their set, the aptly-titled “You Must Fight To Live On The Planet Of The Apes”. All of the songs are precisely the same in both tone and tempo. In fact they begin to blend into one another, an observation duly noted by the bassist halfway through the set. This pedal-to-the-floor approach works to The Creeps' advantage, as this is the last band you would want to surprise you with a down-tempo tear-jerker.


At this point you’d be forgiven for assuming that The Creepy Creeps are a very good rock’n’roll outfit, but not a great one. That's because I haven’t told you about their secret weapon yet; a digital organ that completely envelops the dance floor and threatens to blot out the house lights with its immense and sinister Vox sound. The keyboard is center-stage, housed in a child-size black coffin. A distortion pedal ups the ante, increasing the intensity and the urgency of this instrument. I am in awe as its owner contorts this sonic meat grinder in any number of ways, haphazardly twisting and turning it against God’s will so that the ivories and their ghoulish housing nearly collapse onto the floor at various points throughout this all-too-brief performance. At some point I remember to reclaim my jaw from the floor.


I am telling you, the scream of that distorted Vox was wholly undeniable. It stifled your personal air space, but in a positive way, like campfire smoke. You could almost crawl inside of it. I’ve tried describing the experience to friends, but the words that take shape inside my feeble mind cannot do it justice. It’s like diving into a cool swimming pool on a hot summer day and having someone ask you what it feels like to be wet, one of those rare occasions where the English language fails.


When The Creeps’ set was over, with ears ringing and adrenaline pumping, I headed directly to the merch booth to surrender as much cash as I could hastily dig out of my wallet, feeling every bit like that giddy 15-year-old ponying up for a Black Sabbath tour shirt. I wanted to seek out the band members and tell them how inspirational their set was, but apparently they were already loaded out and long gone. Actually, it’s kinda hard to pick them out of a crowd when they’re all wearing ape masks onstage.


So, is rock’n’roll dead? Yes. No. Maybe. Maybe not. Who cares, really? The point of this blog is, go see The Creepy Creeps. Forget about the YouTube clips, compressed .mp3s, and preconceived notions of what a good time might be. Go see this band live in the flesh, get lost in the moment and consider yourself lucky that events like this still exist on our planet (of the Apes). - BW

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Twilight Zone poster art by Bill Wood.