Rockabilly, that fast-paced southern rock 'n' roll style defined by Elvis Presley in the mid-'50s, has been enjoying a revival in the '70s. New York City's Cramps don't revive it so much as send it to a mental ward for mutant experimentation.
On top of thumderous rhythms and compulsive hiccuping, the band grasps themes from voodoo, monster and scifi movies. The band's lead singer, Lux Interior, comes on like a spasmodic cross between Presley and Vincent Price. He defines one of rock's most fascinating personas with originals like "Human Fly," "Garbage Man" and "Teen-age Werewolf."
The Cramps, who have built a devoted following in D.C. because of their volatile performances, had the crowd at the Psyche Delly on their feet all night. Instead of slavishly imitating pure rockabilly, the band recalls the raucous primitivism and spontaneous outrageousness that is the music's spirit.
Opening the show was D.C.'s Tex Rubinowitz and the Bad Boys. The band played a more traditional, albeit hard-edged brand of rockabilily than the Cramps. Moaning and crooning like a bull in heat, Rubinowitz led the band through an incendiary set of rockabilly classics, as well as his own high-octane originals like "Hot Rod Man."