Abandon all hope, ye who enter the pit at a Hot Snakes show. When the recently reunited San Diego band played at The Casbah last Friday, the wall-towall crowd was an unstoppable whirlpool of sweat, flesh and bone. With discarded PBR cans crinkling underfoot, a cameraman was thrashed around and my notes were reduced to chaotic scribbles. Stray shoes bobbed atop the mass like orphaned dinghies.
The show was the final date in Hot Snakes’ short West Coast reunion tour, and it sold out almost as soon as tickets went on sale. Naturally, the turnout included a who’s-who of San Diego scene vets, giving the night a distinctly down-home vibe. Indeed, both Hot Snakes and the opener, Beehive & The Barracudas, played several renditions of “Happy Birthday to You” to friends in the crowd.
In the years since Hot Snakes’ breakup in 2005, singer / guitarist Rick Froberg and guitarist John Reis have kept busy with Obits and The Night Marchers, respectively. But the quartet’s reunion last year came at just the right time, offering a ferocious alternative to the recent wave of sax-tooting soft-rockers and green-haired “seapunks.” (Seriously, look it up.)
As they roared through much of their discography in about an hour-and-a-half, their primal rock was an imposing presence. My guts were filled with the sledgehammer rhythms of bassist Gar Wood and drummers Jason Kourkounis and Mario Rubalcaba, who traded duties halfway through. As I rocked back and forth to Froberg and Reis’ slithering, armor-plated riffs, I took out my earplugs to experience the full effect. I could still hear a faint ringing two days later.
Hot Snakes might not be working on any new material, but these musicians clearly aren’t retiring any time soon. As the show drew to a close, the churning pool of human flesh grew ever more placid, but the musicians still tore through four encores, like sharks in a blood-scented sea.