I first heard of The Rocketz when I saw them at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt last year. (You can check them out in the video I shot that night; they appear at approximately 6:30.) As a rule, I don’t bother with the shows at the Haunt; I’m there for the Halloween mazes and rides. But when I heard those guitar chords echoing in the distance, it was like a siren song drawing me to the performance of a song I later realized was called “Die, Zombie, Die” – certainly an appropriately titled song, considering the occasion. Unfortunately, I walked in just as they were finishing up a set, and I had to get on with visiting the Doll Factory, 13 Ax Murder Manor, and other horrifying attractions. Since then, I’ve been looking for a chance to see a complete set by the Rocketz, but the logistics never worked out until Friday night, when I caught them at the 2nd Street Jazz Club in the Little Tokyo District of downtown Los Angeles.
The opening act, The Strangers, was a competent power trio that churned out some Ramones-like numbers, which I mean the whole group locked into a rapid-fire synchronized grove with little melodic embellishment. The results were entertaining but not exceptional, and I kept wishing for a little more. Fortunately, when the Rocketz came on, that’s what they delivered – fast-paced and energetic fun.
Much to my disappointment, they did not perform “Die, Zombie, Die.” In truth, when the season is not Halloween, they do no particularly focus on horror-themed material, although they do have a few interesting tracks of that sort in their repertoire (including “Vampire’s Sorrow” and the title track of their debut album, “Rise of the Undead, with which they wrapped up their set on Friday). Instead, their sound is a combination of rockabilly and punk rock, which they deliver not only with power and volume but also with considerable skill. These guys don’t just play loud; they play well.
The small crowd responded enthusiastically, and the band responded enthusiatically; even the obligatory drum solo was delivered with impressive gusto, and the stand-up bass player showed off his weight-lifting skill, lifting his instrument upside down over his head while blasting out the last few notes of the final crescendo.
We usually stick to supernatural and gothic subject matter (the name is not Hollywood Gothique for nothing) in our reviews. The Rocketz has only a tangential connection with the genre, courtesy of a handful of tunes, but even without songs about zombies and vampires, they put on a good show.