Hot Snakes at Crescent Ballroom, 3/28/12
If you're going to put something your van, it better be a Jesus fish. Otherwise, you're just asking for trouble.
BY BENJAMIN HOROWITZ
Hot Snakes Crescent Ballroom Wednesday, March 28 When I heard about the Hot Snakes reunion tour, my first thought was, "that doesn't make sense." The band just didn't seem like the reuniting type. They called it quits in 2005. They certainly didn't have the commercial clout of a nostalgia act from the '80s, nor did they have the false-nostalgia appeal to the hipsterati of any of the reconciled '90s acts (see: Pavement).
And yet, there they were last night, onstage. Singer Rick Froberg chewing gum and battling the "bird flu," glued to the microphone, yowling out his abstract word-picture portrait lyrics. Guitarist John Reis and bassist Gar Wood bouncing around, a huge grin on their faces much of the night. The two drummers, Mario Rubalcaba and Jason Kourkonis, both blurs of motions during their respective turns on stage.
The crowd, docile for the entirety of the two opening acts' set, lit up the instant the band lit into the woozy "I Hate the Kids" (appropriate, given the fact that the show was 21+). Fists were pumped, crowds were surfed, and stages were dived while the Snakes tore through the majority of their two studio albums, rarely coming up for air.
Then it occurred to me: The Hot Snakes reunion makes perfect sense, because it doesn't really make sense. Everything that makes the band's music great derives from the fact that it simultaneously sounds like it should and shouldn't be happening.
At its best, their songs express the disquietude that can creep into contemporary urban life. The guitars mimic the classic riffage of rock 'n roll, but do so with strings bent, sounding slightly out of tune with one another; sounding menacing, ominous. Familiar but dangerous.
Meanwhile, the rhythm section gallops along underneath, propelling the songs forward, but its never clear what direction forward is. The songs may stop on a dime, shifting radically in dynamics, or they may remain constant, bludgeoning. On top if it all are Froberg's lyrics. The songs eschew narrative for imagery, and the combination of all these styles creates something much more than the sum of its parts.
After nearly an hour on stage, the band relented to the crowd's requests for an encore. They seemed genuinely energized by the enthusiasm of the crowd. It didn't play as one of those expected encores, because the band had held nothing back from the set list. They played three more songs, including covers of The Big Boys and X.
As the final chord rang out, it was clear that everybody in the room would probably want to show up if the band decided to reunite in another seven years (or sooner). Maybe they will; maybe they won't. Probably not. But here's hoping.
Last Night: Hot Snakes, Mrs. Magician, and Spider Fever at Crescent Ballroom
Personal Bias: A certain friend of mine has taken to calling his bowel movements "hot snakes," which is pretty disgusting.
The Crowd: Featuring members of Jimmy Eat World, Landmine Marathon, Destruction Unit, and probably many others.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Wait, which band is this? How many more bands?" - during the opening acts' sets, about a million times
Random Notebook Dump: The Crescent may want to rethink the quotation marks on the chalkboard where it says Al Pastor "Pork" Burrito.
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