By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Reconvened powerhouse post-punk band Hot Snakes returns to the Bay Area Tuesday night for this show at the New Parish, playing songs from it’s most recent acclaimed Sub Pop album, Jericho Sirens.
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 2017 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 2018 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.
The unit has remained largely quiet outside of some live dates last year, but last November released the bracing new tune “Checkmate” in November followed by “I Shall Be Free” a few weeks ago. The band brings a short swing of West Coast dates with Kourkounis behind the drum kit back to the Bay Area when Hot Snakes headline the New Parish in Oakland on Tuesday night. Energetic Los Angeles post-punk group Kills Birds — fronted by manic Croatian-Canadian lead singer Nina Ljeti — opens the show.
Tuesday, March 3, 7:30 p.m. $24-$27
The New Parish