POP MUSIC REVIEW : Rollicking Rocket at Whisky

Regardless of past hype, Rocket From the Crypt looked more like a honky-tonk house band than alternative rock's next big hope as it walked on stage Friday at the Whisky.

Though the six-piece band probably owes more to Jackie Gleason than Kurt Cobain in the attitude department, when it blasted out of San Diego two years ago--pitting trumpet and saxophone against the ferocity of hard-core punk--the indie band was heralded as the next big thing (move over Pearl Jam). Much to Rocket's chagrin, the hype even sent record companies scrambling to the seaside city, hoping San Diego would prove the next Seattle.

Friday, the band's charismatic intensity alone superseded the misplaced expectations, and even upstaged its recent major-label debut, "Scream, Dracula, Scream!" with a rollicking yet tight set of old and new songs.

The band members, who donned matching rhinestone-studded cowboy shirts, spiced their meat-and-potatoes rock with zesty twists: horns, maracas, tambourine and unified chants for backing vocals while organizing dense guitar distortion into fist-pumping rhythms. Singer John Reis (a.k.a. Speedo) spoke between numbers with a humble Elvisian swagger, but then sang with a sharp and gruff edge, capping the band's meaty yet razor-sharp appeal.

Rocket proved it didn't need a next-big-thing launching pad to make its music fly.

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