Show reviews: Hot Snakes and Night Marchers at Alex’s Bar, Bruce Springsteen at Honda Center

Outside of San Diego, is there a better place to see Hot Snakes (above) and Night Marchers (below) than Alex’s Bar in Long Beach? Two world-class rippers in one world-class dive bar. We arrived at the unusual, awesome, and sold-out matinee on Sunday just in time to see Night Marchers (1/2 or 3/4 of Hot Snakes, depending on who’s drumming for the latter) finish setting up their gear and start their set at the ungodly hour of 4:37. Lots of simmering new stuff from the upcoming album and some fave older roots-garage rockers (“I wanna deadbeat you!“). Everyone’s obsessing over the RFTC reunion happening around Easter, but don’t sleep on the January release featuring the hard-rocking pipes of Swami John Reis.

As for Hot Snakes, this was one of a handful of warm-up shows before the reunited crew headed off to Australia. The psychic axe rapport between Rick Fork and John Reis (forged way back in Pitchfork and cemented in Drive Like Jehu) is as strong as ever, still backed up by the mighty bass of Garth (also in Night Marchers) and heavy-duty drumming by Jason (Hot Snakes) or by Mario (RFTC, OFF!, Earthless…). Damn. With all those chops, they could choose to show off and play prog or math rock but instead they lay out the rawest, raddest, heaviest form of punk rock possible. It’s a miracle Alex’s didn’t spontaneously combust.

I admit that I’m a novice when it comes to Springsteen. In my formative years I was more into punk, indie, garage, reggae, and everything else. But I genres and labels mean less and less as you get older, and I was pretty stoked to finally see The Boss, even at a huge arena like the Duck Pond. He’s getting older, too, but everything everyone says about Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert rang true. Last night, the populist musician returned to the Anaheim, where he and Little Steven were turned away from the Happiest Place on Earth in 1985, and totally put out for 3 1/2 hours, playing a ton of hits (“Born To Run,” “Because The Night,” “Dancing in The Dark,” “Hungry Heart” (including some impressive crowd surfing by Springsteen) and mixing in gems for his fanatics.

The fervor was church-like, as he kicked off the show by asking, “Are you ready to be transformed?” Moments implied a post-Obama win victory rally and reflection on super storm Sandy destroying his hometown (the opener “Land of Hope and Dreams,” “We Take Care of Our Own”). I think it’s rad that Springsteen backs his beliefs and causes fearlessly (look at his Facebook page to see all the shit he’s getting from so-called hardcore fans for supporting POTUS). Despite some cheesy choreographed chorus-line moments in the show, Bruce is way punker in his actions than most Mohawked musicians these days. Maybe that’s why he had Tom Morello jamming on a lot of the songs that he played on the new album (as well as “The Ghost of Tom Joad, which RATM covered) and played Social Distortion’s “Bad Luck” with Mike Ness (below). O.C. punks at The Pond!

Parts of the set were a little overblown for my tastes with so many guitarists, keyboards, backup singers, and horns onstage as the band contracted and expanded depending on the song. Some numbers were almost Pogues-like with the accordion and fiddle. But the entire show was epic and awesome, and yes he played “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” in the encore. Like a boss. Of course.