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Rockin’ Videos: The Cramps – Live at Napa State Mental Hospital (June 13, 1978)

January 22, 2021

When I say I stopped listening to music for the last 5 years, that’s not completely true. There’s one band I’ve listened to quite a bit… and that’s The Cramps.

This is a band that I never paid much attention to growing up, much to my dismay. If you’re a long time reader of this site, you will know that I grew up with a strange relationship with punk, which I trace back to this interview.

Since I wanted to be in Kennedy’s shoes when I grew up, I was so freaked out by Johnny Rotten that I was just really scared of punk. And I was a dumb kid that didn’t realize that I was consuming it anyways by virtue of the grunge and other “alternative rock” I was listening to anyways. But classic punk bands? No way. That was scary. Somehow metal was not, but you know how teen brains rationalize shit.

Anyway, I now have an Iggy Pop tattoo and my listening tastes are much more informed and balanced. But for some reason a couple years ago I just really got into The Cramps. Then I heard about this concert, and subsequent video and I thought it was just the most amazing live music thing I’d ever seen or heard of.

I know I’m not alone in spending a lot of time in the last year thinking about how vastly different the world is now. I never thought that, at 40 years old, I’d already feel like I’m not built for the world that’s in front of us. I thought that feeling would wait a couple decades.

This show happened in 1978. Can you imagine anything like this happening today? There would be too many opinions, too many lawsuits. It would be seen as a stunt for the ‘gram. Where back then, these were fringe people playing for mental patients…. crazies playing for crazies!

There is a certain amount of freedom that is being regulated away from us, and we are seeing that specifically in live music. An example that comes to mind is seeing Watain shows around the U.S. about 10 (!) years ago. At the Emo’s show (RIP old Emo’s!) in 2010, they were allowed to have carcasses and candles on stage, but I believe that was one of the only venues in the U.S. on that tour that allowed their full setup. And in 2012, same thing- the White Rabbit in San Antonio was vastly different than the LA show. Health codes, etc… those Texas shows were way more interesting. I haven’t seeing Watain in a long time, but now both of those venues are gone, replaced by squeaky clean ones, and I don’t expect they’d be allowed to do anything “crazy” like that anymore.

And nope, watching a livestream of it is not a fair proxy.

Disney’s “banned bands” list of artists who can’t play at House of Blues around the country… many due to undesirable fans… now that’s a fun topic.

As the years go on, I hope that art, and live music, doesn’t suffer in the wake of safety, cleanliness, or fear of offending someone for a different point of view. Those like me know that the best music has always been dangerous.

For more in depth coverage about how this show happened, check out this article on Vice.

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