Show Reviews: Hot Snakes, Mrs. Magician, Spider Fever, RAD, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Blaster Master, Outlook, Chain and the Gang

Four shows in six nights. At the core were stops by RAD (above), a Sacramento-based thrash revival band that happens to feature my cousin Anthony on bass. On either end of the RAD sandwich were some old favorites… Last night was Ian Svenonius with Chain and the Gang and kicking off the run was Hot Snakes, who reunited for All Tomorrow’s Parties and Fun Fun Fun and is now in the midst of a victory lap for the fans who don’t do festivals.

Opening up the Hot Snakes’ sold-out gig at The Troubadour was Spider Fever. The San Diego band puts the Snakes’ Mario Rubalcaba right in front. If you have any taste in music whatsoever, your innards have already been shaken by his powerful, ruthless drumming (411, Clikatat Ikatowi, Rocket From The Crypt, Earthless, OFF!) and it turns out he rips on guitar and vocals, too. (The other guys ain’t bums, either, coming from The Heartaches and The Widows.) Think MC5 meets DMZ and you’re heading in the right direction–right off a cliff into punk rock ‘n’ roll oblivion. This is no goofy side project but a fully realized unit on a mission to corrupt your soul with two flame-throwing 7″s and a brand-new LP–all great ways to wear down a needle.

Next up was another garage-rooted band from San Diego, boasting supremely catchy power pop leanings and equally sharp lyrics. (Check out “There Is No God“…) But in a live setting, they’re more about putting out and appeasing the rock gods than proving how clever they are. A great discovery and very cool group that proudly flies the Swami flag and lives up to the legend.

And then there were Hot Snakes. I heard that Rick Froberg’s voice was shot after the band’s very first night of the tour and it definitely won’t be healing any time soon. But his powering through most of the ambitiously long set list with shredded vocal chords added yet another layer of post hardcore awesomeness. It was like carrying on with busted strings or using someone else’s drum kit and still being rad enough to blow away any other band on the planet on a particular evening.

Although Hot Snakes hadn’t released any music since 2006, nothing sounds old about the pairing of Froberg’s atypical vocals and tweaked guitars with John Reis’ machine-gun downstrokes (as evolved in Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu…) or the split drumming duties of hard-rocking Jason Sinclair and aforementioned beast Mario Rubalcaba (held together by the glue-like bass playing of Gar Wood). Still unique. Still ahead of its time. Still amazing. If you didn’t win the lottery last week, you have slightly better odds of scoring a ticket to one of the remaining shows on craigslist.

What can I say but the next show was RAD. I’ve been following the Coelocanth of thrash music ever since my cousin Anthony got jumped into it by his neighbors, and their live show lived up to my impossible expectations at The Smell. Most of the Sacto crew’s songs on the 7″ are about slam pits and poseurs (with a little Battlestar Galactica mixed in for variety’s sake) and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Doug Moody compilation (but with slightly better production value). After quickly setting up shop on the floor in front of the stage, they wiped it clean with sweat, spit, and blood. With the addition of killer new tunes like “Don’t Call The Cops,” RAD can easily play upwards of 15 minutes now, and when they got the typically twee Smell audience to skank like Circle Jerks cartoon characters, I seriously thought someone was going to get sent to moshpital. So awesome.

One of the best things about going to shows is seeing bands that are new to you. Sure, most of them suck but Manhattan Murder Mystery was totally worth sticking around for. While the tormented vocals sometimes reminded me of American Steel and the super catchy melodies channeled slower songs by Avail, it was the singer’s wearing a full backpack, harmonica headgear, and hoodie up that got my attention. Weird. But also also extra punchy, seemingly populist, and shockingly infectious–even for an old guy like me. I’ll have track down their recorded stuff and find out what the heck they sing about.

I met up with RAD again the next day, this time at the East Los outpost of Pyrate Punx. I never heard of the group before attending this particular house show, which opened with some grind and crusty grind courtesy of local homies Bruce Campbell and Clawsup. Tasty. Next, RAD borrowed the brutal drum kit and got a good pit going with their faster paced hardcore jams. Punks and heshers rocking together and walking together–I was going to cry it was so beautiful. And when RAD busted out a supercharged cover of Negative Approach’s “Ready To Fight,” I thought I was going to have to call the slambulance… after uploading a couple of Instagram pics and some Go video, of course.

Starting with RAD, the last four bands on the bill had woman singers and they were all amazing. Master Blaster is a local power violence band with super fast, heavy, and tech drumming and guitar that fans of The Locust and Cattle Decapitation would dig. The singer alternated from trance-like pacing to full-on raging with barely human vocals. Incredible. I became her Facebook friend the very next day but have to admit that I’m a little bit intimidated by her mass quantities of buck.

For the last couple of weeks, Outlook has been crisscrossing Socal in the early portion of their months-long sojourn from Olympia. Skating all day and then playing anywhere they can at night, the hardcore punk band and crew fill their van’s gas tank with sales of vinyl, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and anything else they can press, and I did my part by purchasing an amazing six-song cassette for 3 bucks. You seriously need the PMA to leave home for seven weeks with an itinerary full of TBAs, and they do indeed succeed in making the Youth Crew sound brand new. I felt too good (and hungry for noodles in the SGV) to see another band after that, so we missed San Jose’s grindcore Buried at Birth… But definitely catch Outlook on this tour, have fun in the pit, and then show them your local ditches, pools, and other skate spots.

The last time I saw Chain and the Gang, the band’s lineup was totally different and the Satellite was still called Spaceland. (Although I didn’t see them there. Maybe it was at The Echo with Strange Boys?) The gang has been expanded in size and sound, with a more traditional rock setup and new vocal sparrer/dance partner for Ian. Practically the entire first half of the set was new songs with higher energy–but the same applecart-toppling, ground-level interests–and he’s been working on some new moves, too. Not limiting banter to between songs, his bands have always delivered the goods in post-political thought as well as entertainment value and last night’s show at the Satellite was no exception. Can’t wait for the new album.

Gotta love Spring when the flowers bloom and so do the shows. See you at Junghaus, OFF!, Dum Dum Girls, and possibly Guitar Wolf if I have the cash. Hoping fIREHOSE plays a non-Coachella date and The Bangs make it down here, too.