The Rockats have built a solid audience in Washington by consistently delivering high-energy rockabilly shows that seem the weekend panacea for this town's youthful white-collar working class. At the 9:30 club Saturday night, this New York City quintet turned in a rousing performance that revealed the band's continuing effort to broaden its stylistic horizons past the compulsive bop 'n' roll that is their forte.

Especially impressive was "Love This Cat," an insinuating and sensual rocker that took every advantage of lead singer Dibbs Preston's teen-idol looks and dramatic delivery.

Dressed in the classic hepcat style of the '50s and in a state of perpetual frenetic motion, the Rockats never failed to put on a visually compelling show. Smutty Smiff's routines with the stand-up bass that seemed to drag him around the stage provided a comically energetic counterpoint to Preston's more intense stage antics.

Local rockers used to pan the Rockats as a group full of style but without musical substance. The Rockats have proved, however, that even stripped of their good looks and sartorial splendor, they are a hard-working and joyously committed bunch of rock 'n' rollers. As always, they left the stage drenched, and most of the crowd was equally overheated.