Cool-As-Ever Cramps Set Crowd Afire

Cramps' musical circus combines 1950s cool with camp, riffs with ribaldry and a fabulous B-music cha

ORLANDO, Fla. -- If Lux Interior is one thing, he is cool.

If he is another, he is ageless.

You would never know that punk-rock is 20 years old witnessing him and his Cramps performing live. And he has a simple, if modest, explanation for it all.

"To be cool, you must not only have sunglasses," Interior told the crowd Friday from the stage during their show at the House of Blues. "There is one other ingredient -- culture. Let's go down to the museum and get some," he quipped, and the band broke into "Naked Girl Falling Down The Stairs." A tribute (sort-of) to the painting "Nude Descending A Staircase," the song featured a guitar sound like that of trading cards flapping in bicycle spokes.

It was the perfect foil to the upper-class style of the famous work of art. Better yet, it was quintessential Cramps.

Perhaps that's because the Cramps' musical circus combines 1950s cool with

camp, riffs with ribaldry and a fabulous B-music charm. Visually, the group is

perhaps only upstaged by its audience.

Milling about the nearly sold-out crowd at the House of Blues were a few subsections of punk, leather-jacketed biker types sporting slick hair and tough looks circa 1956. There was the jeans and T-shirt contingent whose attire advertised everyone from the Cramps to the Exploited, with the occasional rebel stance of "Punks Not Dead." And there was the reverent congregation, whose garb included sexpot scantiness, goth-come-lately chic, women in skin-tight evening attire and men proudly sporting a certain spike-haired '70s punk defiance.

But then, a Cramps show is as much about fashion and culture as it is about music. "They're part of the culture of people," said Scarlet Winter, an elegant, black-haired goth type from Orlando who'd come as much to see the band as to participate in the scene. The quartet is as vibrant and fresh as it was when they first took the stage 20 years ago. If there was ever any doubt of this, Interior dispelled it.

DJ Lynette Forrest, a long-haired, hippie-type blonde, drove from Boca Raton to see the performance. "I've been playing the Cramps on my show for the last five years," said Forrest, a radio host for WOWL-FM (91.7). "To hear them in person is incomparable."

As for campy culture, the Cramps' show was loaded with it. Between-band announcements from '50s horror-movie commercials preceded the show and complemented Poison Ivy's Russ Meyer-style attire -- a leopard-striped, one-piece cocktail bunny-suit that enhanced her flowing mane of orange-red hair, bright red lipstick and black, shiny boots.

Meanwhile, Interior's slick black outfit and psychedelic round glasses were as spooky as they were hilarious. It all made for a wonderful effect enhanced only by the lack of any real props -- just like in the best of the B-movies.

And just like the B-movie greats, the show began simply enough. The curtain opened and the band walked out. "Cramp Stomp" kicked things into high gear, as Interior's glasses alternately showed psychedelic swirls and blackness. As the song blazed, Ivy occasionally grimaced during a solo, but otherwise was coolly detached.

Guitarist Slim Chance's obnoxiously riveting displays of feedback and noise created trash epics of their own, most notably during "Garbageman." His notes grated and buzzed in monster-chord splendor, while Interior danced and gyrated around and with him.

Throughout, Interior commanded the audience's attention, whether it was a serpentine slink that found the rocker writhing around on the floor at Ivy's feet to the sounds of "Hot Pearl Bitch" or his nearly swallowing a microphone during the grand finale of "Surfin' Bird." In other moments, he could be found mounting the amps on either side of the stage in what could only be seen as near-orgasmic bliss.

Clearly his antics inspired some to let it all hang out. One couple in the balcony section took the opportunity to grind pelvises to the tune of "Eyeballs."

And then there were the more subtle nuances such as drummer Harry Drumdini's choice of bones as sticks to keep the beat on "I Was A Teenage Werewolf," or "What's Inside A Girl," "God Monster" and "Mean Machine," which were played with such intensity that Interior's neck veins rose to the occasion, while Chance's guitar alternated between Neil Young-like speaker-cone buzz and nasty feedback piercing-sounds that desperately challenged the limits of his amplifiers.

By the encore -- a scorching version of "Human Fly" -- the House of Blues mosh pit had taken on a life of its own, breathing and pulsing and emitting a spray of sweat that showered on everyone in the vicinity.

For Winter, it was everything she could have hoped for and more.

"They were phenomenal," she said. "Classic."