The Cramps – Live at Napa State Mental Hospital – Review

The Cramps

Live at Napa State Mental Hospital (MVD)
by Brian Varney

The chance to see something like this is the reason DVD reissues are so damn cool. Live at Napa State Mental Hospital is a show whose existence I’d heard mentioned for years and years, but whose footage I’d never actually gotten the chance to see. And probably never would’ve, if not for the good folks at MVD. For those unfamiliar with the legend of this show, The Cramps played a free show in 1978 to a room full of mental patients and had the good sense to record the proceedings for posterity. The result, though rough-hewn in both audio and video quality, is pretty damned glorious. I won’t lie: This looks and sounds like utter shit. However, if you were truly hung up on such things, you probably wouldn’t be reading a Cramps review, would you? Nope, I’d say the grainy black and white and muffled audio familiar to fans of late-night horror movies form the perfect atmospherics for The Cramps on your TV, and that’s exactly the backdrop you get for the hot set the band, fresh from the recording of Gravest Hits, lays down for the patients who, frankly, don’t look that different from the folks you normally see in rock clubs. The only real difference is that they’re not afraid to show their enthusiasm, dancing and jumping around both on and off stage, occasionally snatching the mic to add a “yeah!” or two when the mood hits. This is about as rock and roll as rock and roll gets.