The Cramps - Live at Napa State Mental Hospital DVD (Cover Artwork)

The Cramps

Live at Napa State Mental Hospital 📀 (2004)

Music Video Distributors

If you're in a band and were thinking about places to play, in all likelihood the state mental institution would probably never have crossed your mind. Well, for whatever reason, the Cramps thought it would be a good idea to not only play it, but bring along the Target Video film crew as well to document it. In June of 1978, they made the trip from New York to play the California State Mental Hospital in Napa, CA. What unfolds is truly one of the most bizzarre scenes ever. But then again, this is the Cramps we're talking about, so maybe it shouldn't be all that surprising.

The black and white footage jumps straight into a scene from "One Who Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest." It's a surreal moment as the band starts to play "Mystery Plane" and a dozen or so patients are just wandering around. One man is hopping around in a dress while another lady walks across the stage scratching her head in confusion. And behind them is the hospital staff clearly amused by it all.

But within the first couple songs, the Cramps fuzzy, sleazy style of rockabilly/psychobilly starts to win over the crowd. The audience really gets into it as some grab the mic and randomly scream into it. One patient to the left of the stage is in full spazz out mode. Singer Lux Interior is the consummate showman, constantly moving around on stage, shoving the mic into his mouth while taking turns dancing with some of the female patients. He comments midway through the set "Somebody told me you guys were crazy…I'm not too sure about that." And at that moment, if you didn't know the context behind the film, you could've guessed it was just another early Cramps show and not be that far off. The end of the set is there before you know it, but the crowd, or at least the ones who were paying attention, is treated to an entertaining rock'n'roll show.

Despite the rudimentary stage setup and equipment, the band comes off tight and professional. The set is only 20 minutes, but they manage to play such classics as "The Way I Walk," "Human Fly" "Domino" and "TV Set." Poison Ivy is cool and calm as always and guitarist Bryan Gregory is obviously getting a kick out of the whole thing.

The video and audio quality is what it is -- footage from 1978 filmed with a ½-inch Sony port-a-pak black and white camera so don't expect too much. Nonetheless, the film has held up over the years. It's certainly not unwatchable and actually pretty decent towards the latter parts of the set.

The "extras" on the DVD amount to nothing more than 20 minutes of advertisements of other videos Target offers. Included are a bunch of live clips of Flipper, Crucifix, MDC, and Crime (playing a prison).

Any Cramps fan would enjoy this, but it's hard to recommend this as a buy for everybody else simply because it's such a short set and that's it. But if you're looking for a rental, give it a try just to see what this was all about.