By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Reconvened powerhouse punk band Hot Snakes returns to San Francisco Tuesday night for a sold-out show, playing songs from it’s new Sub Pop album Jericho Sirens at the recently opened August Hall with support from Mexican experimental punk band Le Butcherettes and local psych power trio Feral Ohms.
Founded in 1999 by guitarists and longtime friends John Reis and Rich Froberg, Hot Snakes would take a more primal approach than the two musicians’ earlier San Diego-based outfits — the formative post-hardcore group Pitchfork and the corrosive noise-rock juggernaut Drive Like Jehu. While Reis and Froberg hadn’t worked together since Jehu split in 1995, during a break from his other successful punk unit Rocket From the Crypt, Reis put together a batch of songs with Delta 72 drummer Jason Kourkunis and enlisted Froberg to sing and add guitar.
Their 2000 debut album Automatic Midnight would be the first release on Reis’ Swami Records. Insistent and propulsive, the raging, straight-ahead punk tunes streamlined the complex structures the players had explored with Drive Like Jehu without sacrificing any of the intensity. Adding bassist Gar Woods to complete Hot Snakes as a touring unit, the band played to wide acclaim before going on hiatus as Reis returned his focus to Rocket From the Crypt.
Hot Snakes got back together in 2002 to record it’s follow-up effort Suicide Invoice. Dialing back the feral energy of the first album and delving into slower tempos and more experimental atmospheres, the recording showed off the band’s surprising versatility. When Kourkunis left the group to play with rising alt-rock trio Burning Brides the following year, Reis invited RFTC drummer Mario Rubalcaba (the Black Heart Procession and later a member of Earthless and Off!) for the recording of the third Hot Snakes album Audit In Progress in 2004 that returned to their earlier, more explosive sound.
Reis would dissolve both Hot Snakes and Rocket From the Crypt the following year to focus his attentions on running Swami Records, though he remained prolific with a number of projects involving members including the raw rock outfit the Sultans and the new group the Night Marchers (which included Wood and Kourkounis). Hot Snakes eventually reunited in 2011, playing a number of festivals and a West Coast tour that included both Kourkounis and Rubalcaba playing the tunes they originally recorded.
The quartet came back together again last year for a similar tour featuring both drummers, but this time announced the recording of their first new album in 14 years that also used the talents of both Kourkounis and Rubalcaba. The release for Sub Pop (which also reissued the band’s back catalog) entitled Jericho Sirens proved the group remains as vital and incendiary as ever. Though they won’t be traveling with both drummers this time around (Kourkounis will be behind the kit), for the current tour, Hot Snakes are joined by Mexican punk experimentalists Le Butcherettes.
Led by singer, guitarist and keyboardist Teri Gender Bender since she was in her teens, the initially Guadalajara-based band has produced a string of celebrated recordings since their first album Sin Sin Sin in 2011 for At the Drive-In/The Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López’s label. Known for her cathartic, theatrical onstage performances and the pointed political/social commentary of her songs, Gender Bender and the current line-up of the band (featuring two of Rodríguez-López’s brothers) recently announced the release of their new struggle/STRUGGLE EP, a set of three distinctly different versions of the same song recorded with Modern Lovers/Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison for the band’s new label Rise Records.
Opening the show will be local psych juggernaut Feral Ohms. A corrosive power trio anchored by renowned Bay Area guitarist Ethan Miller who founded Comets on Fire and Howlin’ Rain and more recently became part of the psych supergroup Heron Oblivion. Started in 2011, Feral Ohms delivers a deafening, fuzzed-out fury that recalls the lysergic caveman stomp of late ’60s underground legends Blue Cheer and Sir Lord Baltimore while hearkening back to Miller’s most unhinged early work with Comets on Fire.
After putting out a string of 7-inch singles for a variety of imprints including SF boutique label Valley King and the aforementioned Alternative Tentacles, last year the threesome issued a frenetic live recording tracked at the Chapel in San Francisco on Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer’s Castle Face Records. Last year, the trio offered up it’s self-titled studio debut released on Miller’s own Sliver Current label that manages (barely) to contain the ferocity of the band’s onstage assault. More recently, Silver Current put out a limited edition box set of the band’s singles that quickly went out of print. Tuesday night’s sold-out show will be held at August Hall, a new venue operated by concert promoter Live Nation that recently opened in the location of onetime Union Square mega nightclub Ruby Skye.
Hot Snakes with Le Butcherettes and Feral Ohms
Tuesday, May 15, 7:30 p.m. $26 (sold out)