To judge by their appearance in "Kill Bill, Vol. 1," the 5.6.7.8's are roots-rockers who rely on three gimmicks: gender, nationality and costume.

Wednesday night at the Black Cat, the campy all-female Japanese trio didn't erase that impression but did temper it a bit. Replacing evening gowns with pants -- but keeping the bouffant hairdos -- the band played a spirited set of almost-retro rock-and-roll.

Although its music is rooted in the '50s and '60s, the Tokyo trio clearly owes something to '70s reinterpreters such as the Cramps and the Ramones.

Guitarist Ronnie Yoshiko Fujiyama, bassist Yoshiko Yamaguchi and drummer Sachiko Fujii brought a punky swagger to Sam Cooke's "Shake," the Shangri-las' "I'm Blue" and Booker T. & the MG's "Green Onions," as well as such instant-oldie originals as "Woo Hoo" -- the band's best-known song, thanks to "Kill Bill" and a British beer commercial. Sometimes the covers and originals melded and bits of the "Batman" theme or the Barbarians' "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?" surfaced in one of the songs.

The 5.6.7.8's weren't especially tight but they were surprisingly versatile. Yamaguchi and Fujii were solid during the passages they dominated, and all three musicians sang. Most of the surprises came from Fujiyama, whose guitar playing was much freer than that of most rock revivalists. She incorporated the occasional reggae lick, showed an affinity for fuzz tone and feedback and ended the main set with a rave-up that suggested "White Light/White Heat''-period Lou Reed. If the 5.6.7.8's ever decide to park the campiness in the closet with the gowns, they just might render their gimmicks irrelevant.

-- Mark Jenkins