Friday, May 8, 2015

Hot Snakes -- November 5, 2004 The Granada, Lawrence, Kansas

As they did on their last major tour, Hot Snakes chose gigs in Chicago and Lawrence, skipping over St. Louis. So this show took the shape of a mini-pilgrimage. Fans that drove in from Omaha, Des Moines, St. Louis, and other Midwestern cities lined the merch table before the gig to buy stuff and to talk to punk veteran John “Speedo” Reis, whose involvement in bands like Drive Like Jehu, Pitchfork, and Rocket From the Crypt has made him something of an underground icon. Joining him behind the altar were bassist Gar Wood and drummer Mario Rubalcaba. Nowhere to be found was vocalist/guitarist Rick Froberg, who played with Reis in both Jehu and Pitchfork.

After sets from Die Electric and Red Eyed Legends, Hot Snakes appeared from around the black curtain amid a cloud of appreciation. All told, Hot Snakes played 20 songs in all: 7 from Automatic Midnight, 7 from Suicide Invoice, and 6 from their latest, Audit in Progress. While some bands generate energy from jumping around stage, Hot Snakes did it by standing more or less in place. Froberg’s yelps exuded fire, oozing with manic energy. Reis, Wood, and Rubalcaba were no Christmas turkeys either, as their execution of the set was damn near flawless.
The show’s high points came from the order in which they chose their set list. The first three songs on Automatic Midnight (“If Credit’s What Matters I Take Credit,” “Automatic Midnight,” and “No Hands”), Suicide Invoice (“I Hate the Kids,” “Gar Forgets His Insulin,” and “XOX”), and Audit in Progress (“Braintrust,” “Hi-Lites,” and “Retrofit”) were all played consecutively during various portions of the set. A heightened sense of anticipation resulted in the songs getting the biggest cheers.

The night also served as a platform for the fans to yell out non-Hot Snakes material, meaning songs from the bands they used to be in. The band (mainly Froberg) took the suggestions with a chuckle, but didn’t bow to the requests. The set was 100% Hot Snakes. Unlike their visit to Lawrence two years ago, they did not bust out Drive Like Jehu’s “Bullet Train to Vegas.” It didn’t matter, for Hot Snakes ended the evening as they started—arguably the best punk band on the planet.

On a side note, I got a major shock that I couldn’t have imagined in a million years. The Lawrence City Commission, without a referendum or ballot issue, passed a no-smoking ordinance that went into effect in July. Bar owners are fighting this ban as we speak, collecting the necessary amount of signatures and hoping to get the issue on the March 2005 ballot.

Personally, as a non-smoker, it was a strange yet pleasant change. However, as a fan, I worry about the potential financial impact that this ban will have on the clubs. As far as St. Louis goes, imagine the impact if one day there was NO SMOKING at Rocket Bar, Hi-Pointe, Off Broadway, Way Out Club, etc. Sure, I could wear my jeans more than just one day, but bands, smokers, and club owners would run wild in the streets.

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