Rocket from the Crypt, Murder City Devils, Botch, and American Steel @ Great American Music Hall, 10.27.01

I bought tickets to this show ages ago, having learned my lesson last time Rocket from the Crypt played Great American, when I strolled up thinking I'd get day-of-show tickets. Needless to say, I was denied.

But the fifth-to-last ever Murder City Devils show? No freakin’ way I was gonna miss this. Nuh-uh. So tickets were acquired, and exorbitant service fees were paid to guarantee entry.

Thanks to hordes of bridge-and-tunnel making the pilgrimage to San Francisco for Halloween-related hijinks, we rolled up just as local heroes American Steel were finishing their set. Happily, that meant Botch were up next, bringing their own brand of "car-crash music," as my friend Scott calls it, to San Francisco.

And boy, did they. Botch punished the crowd with an unrelenting metalcore assault, aided by a low-tech but highly effective light show. And as intense as the music was, it was met, if not surpassed, by the coiled-spring fury of the band members. Other bands of Botch's ilk, notably Thrice, posture and pretend to be hardcore, but Botch is the real deal. They're tentatively scheduled to return to San Francisco on December 7th with Converge, and if you're a fan of car-crash music, I implore you not to miss 'em.

Ahh, but the Murder City Devils. If you don't get it, you won't get it. They're sex, they're danger, they're rock 'n' roll incarnate. Relying heavily on material from the new Thelema EP, MCD ripped through a brutal 50-minute set. And even without recently departed organist Leslie Hardy (competently replaced on this tour by Nick DeWitt), MCD were flawless.

And even piss-drunk, singer Spencer Moody is twice the frontman of any other rock singer out there. He mangled lyrics, forgot entire songs, kissed his guitar player on the mouth, and basically rocked the joint. High points for me were his drunken rant about how Iggy and the Stooges were the best rock band ever (duh) and the extra two verses he sang of the closing number after his band had stopped playing and left the stage. Time stopped, Spencer preached, and the lucky among us worshipped at the altar of rock 'n' roll. Transcendent's not too strong a word. Not at all.

And how could Rocket from the Crypt follow that? Well, they couldn't. Even lead vocalist/guitarist/romantic lead Speedo, one of the most charismatic showmen in rock, couldn't rise to the occasion. It was obvious that Murder City Devils had set the bar too high for anyone else to clear. And the fact that RFTC's first half-dozen or so songs were off the Group Sounds LP, which I still haven’t heard, made it tough for me to feel it. So rather than try to gild the rock 'n' roll lily, we left, memories of a historic moment fresh and intact.