Hot Snakes Strike

Venomous ex-Drive Like Jehu crew on the attack

Hot Snakes with the Beehive Barracuda and Tangiers at Lee’s Palace, Tuesday (August 20) Tickets: $11.50. Attendance: 400. Rating: NNNN

Rating: NNNN

As the definition of punk rock moves into increasingly vague territory, encompassing everything from shiny, happy goofball antics to whiny emoting about inner fears — all of it swimming in a deep sea of mediocrity — the baffled purist has taken to clinging for dear life to the notion of the noble punk of yore. The true punk, the DIY punk, the punk who had something valid to say and said it with panache and a devil-may-give-a-shit swagger.

Criteria differ, and we all have our picks, but John Reis, frontman of Rocket from the Crypt, member of the now-defunct Drive Like Jehu and founder of Swami Records, must surely be somewhere in the contender pile.

So, the appearance of the Hot Snakes, featuring Reis as well as Drive Like Jehu’s Rick Froberg on vocals and guitar, was obviously a much-anticipated event. And it did not disappoint. These guys incorporate all the best elements of punk — power riffs and rhythms, caustic vocals — never falling into cliché territory or degenerating into horrid noise. You can dance without feeling obligated to smash people on the head.

Granted, Froberg lacks the flash and personality that would compel the eye toward him. Reis, on the other hand, who’s content to stick to guitar and limit himself to the odd tiny backup vocal addition, has those qualities in spades, so I had to settled for watching him.

Though the Hot Snakes had apparently sworn never to play Drive Like Jehu tunes, they did whip out Bullet Train To Vegas, the reaction to which was a pretty good indicator of just how many diehard fans were in the room.

If Reis is up for the Noble Punk of Yore Award, the Cojones of the Week Award goes to Hot Snakes bassist Gar (‘Dner) Wood. A member of both Hot Snakes and the Beehive Barracuda, Wood just happened to be driving with the Snakes, so when the Barracuda got hit with transmission trouble and failed to make the gig, Wood took it upon himself. After a fine opening by locals Tangiers, he did a solo set, representing the entire band, which was stellar and especially stylish in that he didn’t even bother to explain himself until he was almost done, leaving folks wondering what the hell was going on.

A man, a guitar, some great tunes and a gorilla mask.

What more could you ask for?

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