Rocket's Punk Blare

Reis claims that Scream, Dracula, Scream, when taken in with Hot Charity and The State of Art is on Fire, represents Rocket's attempt to grapple as well with the concepts of fame, underground notoriety, and the expectations and tastes of their steadily increasing audience. "There was a lot of disbelief we were feeling when we were writing the songs for the last three records," Reis explains. "Things about what people were considering to be good music and how people were neglecting what I thought was good music and timeless rock and roll. Not only were these people comfortable doing that, but they seemed eager to throw away things in order to get to something else that was just as crappy, if not even worse, than what they were listening to before. I guess it was just the frustration of trying to relate to a group of people and not really being able to."

Cynical thinking, sure, but somewhat justified, for Reis was on hand back in the early Nineties when the music press converged on San Diego to hype the burgeoning underground music scene there as the next Seattle, thanks to the success of Rocket, Trumans Water, and Drive Like Jehu. Major record labels sent talent scouts to the area, and Rocket wound up with a high-dollar contract with Interscope, which re-released the band's second album Circa: Now! in 1993. In spite of the deal, Reis regards the media hubbub with contempt.

"I'm so grateful that all that has died down," he says bitterly. "That kind of shit has no weight to it, and you can't take it seriously. It makes you look like a fool because people automatically think it's the bands going around championing their cause and all their friends' bands. I just don't have any pride in it. I love it [in San Diego] and there are some great bands here, and I really do think it's the best place to live in the world. I'm satisfied here and I'm happy here. But I'm not going around waving a flag about it. It sucks that someone says they want to write a story on you and it turns into San Diego Scene this and that and you wind up being made a stooge of. People are always interested in regionalism, but it just doesn't excite me that much."

Besides, Reis continues, he would rather work at honing Rocket's greatest strength -- namely, white-hot live shows that work both visually (the band is partial to matching bowling shirts of a sequined, glittery variety) and sonically (good as their records are, the band has never fully captured the crunching power and raw-nerve urgency of their on-stage attack). Rocket is currently on the road with the Warped Tour, a minipalooza package that is putting the group in front of some of its largest audiences yet. Some may know the band from its pair of videos (for "Ditch Digger" and "Born in '69"), which MTV shows on blue-moon evenings, and nearly every stop attracts at least a few hard-core fans. Mostly, according to Reis, people aren't sure what to make of 'em. "Every night we go out it's something different," he says of the Warped crowds. "Sometimes we find that a lot of people have bothered to come out and see us play and a lot of other times there are people who just don't understand what we're doing. Yesterday, we played to a couple thousand people and I bet not more than a handful of them had even heard of us before. They just were not getting it. But the day before, everyone knew our stuff and were singing along and dancing and having a good time. Which is good because we weren't expecting anything positive to come of this Warped thing. We're just doing it to keep busy."

Rocket From the Crypt is just one of a slew of bands performing Wednesday, August 7, during the Warped Tour at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, 301 Biscayne Blvd; 358-7550. Doors open at 2:00. Tickets cost $18.50.

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