I wasn’t sure what to expect when I showed up to Ace of Cups on Saturday to cover Rocket From The Tombs.

After all, this was a band that made its mark in the 1974-75 proto-punk community. But, I figured that if Iggy Pop could still put together a fantastic musical show, so could David Thomas.

I was not disappointed.

The opening band was a chaotic outfit called Unholy Two, featuring a saxophone, an auxiliary percussionist, and two guitars with no bass. All of that and loads of noise to boot! Lo-fi legends Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments brought us back to earth with their patented tight grooves and before we knew it, it was time for the main attraction.

Ace of Cups filled up as the night progressed, and you could feel the anticipation in the air as TJSA left the stage. People wanted to see if Rocket From The Tombs were still the same great proto-punk outfit they had heard and enjoyed for years. The band is David Thomas – vocals, Gary Siperko – lead guitar, Craig Willis Bell –bass guitar, Buddy Akita – rhythm guitar and Steve Mehlman – drums.

David Thomas (Credit: Jacob Thompson / Music in Motion Columbus)

Sure enough, we knew we were in for a fun set when bassist Bell brought out a bottle of wine and sat it beside the chair that David Thomas would perform from.

Opening with a song that Thomas said he had always loved to sing along with, they covered Max Frost’s The Shape Of Things To Come. While he may not have been the young punk he used to be, Thomas showed that he could definitely still sing with the best of them.

Up next was I Sell Soul, a bouncy number that was one of the first new songs RFTT recorded after reforming in the mid-2000s. Siperko kicked out his first ear-blistering solo as Thomas took a deep swig of his wine.

Buddy Akita (Credit: Jacob Thompson / Music in Motion Columbus)

Siperko continued puncturing the night with the screaming intro riff to Hawk Full Of Sound.  You could tell that the quintet were a well-practiced group, and the song was highlighted by a funky bass interlude by Bell. Thomas announced that the next song was titled I Keep A File On You, “…and everyone else you know”. The rage was felt throughout the crowd as guitarist Akita’s fingers moved across the frets so fast that you almost lost track of them in their blur.

The crowd was really moving for the next song, Coopy. Thomas asked “What do you keep in your refrigerator,” which is just more proof that this band could do whatever they wanted. The reason was simply because they could kick serious ass in doing so. This outfit was no fuss, no fluff; just straight up rock’n’roll.

Gary Siperko (Credit: Jacob Thompson / Music in Motion Columbus)

Thomas took a break from singing for Muckraker, my personal favorite from the night. Bell took over the microphone, as Siperko cranked up another scorching solo after the chorus, with Akita adding one for good measure at the end.

Spooky was perhaps the most-aptly titled song from the set, with a creepy opening and guitars that could have been featured on a Misfits record. It was definitely the slowest tune of the night, but it did not detract from the overall awesomeness we all witnessed.

Thomas provided a little background on Nugefinger, saying the song was about a show that Ted Nugent played at “some Alpha Delta… fuckery fraternity” at Ohio State University. Explaining that this song came from a jam session after the show, he even picked up his oboe musette and played a few notes as the rest of the musicians rocked out.

Craig Willis Bell (Credit: Jacob Thompson / Music in Motion Columbus)

What Love Is featured another fantastic guitar intro and segued perfectly into the slower So Cold. I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention the technical fury of drummer Mehlman on this song. He had been pounding away the entire night, and showcased a variety of skill behind the kit for this tune.

The crowd went decidedly bananas as Siperko strummed out the opening chords for 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, a song that had been reworked multiple times by Thomas’ other long-time project, Pere Ubu. Although the song seemed to droll on at the beginning, the distortion kicked heavy midway through, featuring yet another killer solo from Siperko, as Thomas again picked up his musette and added to the noise.

Bell took over the lead vocal duties once more for the ballad Amphetamine. This was the only song of the night that had a poppy vibe to it, and despite the slower tempo, it ended up working out great with the rest of the set.

The fun punk grooves returned on Welcome To The New Dark Ages, which featured extremely catchy riffs from Akita and Siperko. The last slow track of the evening followed in Waiting For The Snow, which was almost a perfect juxtaposition to Dark Ages. It was beautiful to hear the mesh of styles back-to-back in that way.

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The most bizarre song of the evening came next. Thomas explained that Butcherhouse #4 was a track about a man who lived on Jupiter, but came to visit Earth. He found that the air was too greasy, and the smell of ripe foods was rotten to him. Why not, I asked? Why not?

The band finished with Six And Two, bringing the volume down in the beginning, but again featured a majorly-catchy chorus and screaming solos from Siperko. It wasn’t as loud as the others, but was just as tight as every song that preceded it. Everyone in the crowd was clapping as the legends left the stage.

The band took a short recess before coming out for a two song encore. Up first was the often-covered Sonic Reducer, which featured Siperko’s best solo of the night. The crowd surged forward as the band finished with Final Solution, which kicked hard and punched fast between Thomas’ signature wails.

The frontman urged everyone in attendance to swing by the merch table as he left, saying that “on any given night, one of us could make a mistake and play the wrong note, but the merchandise will be beautiful forever”. It was a fittingly unique ending to a fantastic night at Ace of Cups.

You just never know what you’re gonna find when you head out for a show in Columbus on any given night. For me, it was three great bands with three vastly unique styles, meshing together for one solid screaming evening of rock’n’roll.

And, isn’t that what it’s all about on a Saturday night?

Setlist:

  1. The Shape Of Things To Come
  2. I Sell Soul
  3. Hawk Full Of Sound
  4. I Keep A File On You
  5. Coopy
  6. Muckraker
  7. Spooky
  8. Nugefinger
  9. What Love Is
  10. So Cold
  11. 30 Seconds Over Tokyo
  12. Amphetamine
  13. Welcome To The New Dark Ages
  14. Waiting For The Snow
  15. Butcherhouse #4
  16. Six and Two
  17. ENCORE – Sonic Reducer
  18. ENCORE – Final Solution

Ed. – If you missed our two-part interview with David Thomas… PART 1 … PART 2

Rocket From The Tombs – Nugefinger