Oh, Hot Snakes. Why do you have to play with my emotions this way? I’m standing in Bowery Ballroom, so sad knowing that this is probably the last time I’ll see the four of you play together as the ‘Hot Snakes,’ but I just can’t keep a smile off my face when John Reis kept slicing away at his guitar from one song into the next with barely enough time for the audience to applaud or when Rick Froberg started in on “Bullet Train to Vegas.” I can’t help but forget for a minute that this is our last show together while Gar Wood’s driving bass and Mario Rubalcaba’s relentless drumming kept the packed audience in constant motion. There is something so strange and sad about seeing a band play a fucking amazing rock show, all the while knowing you’re never going to get this same high again. The Hot Snakes picked a perfect venue and a grateful city to play their final US show in, Bowery was overflowing with fans who knew every word to “Light Up the Stars” and enthusiastically and spastically moved to “Braintrust.” Hot Snakes fans, for that matter Reis and Froberg fans, can debate all night long which incarnation of Hot Snakes they prefer. Is the Hot Snakes break up an event that could lead to new Rocket From the Crypt material? Are we all just wishing that Drive Like Jehu would reform and tour again? Whatever camp the fans were in last night, we were all just lucky to be there to witness a band that rocked so hard and were so tight it seems the magic just couldn’t last.
At the show last night I ran into the lead singer of the now defunct D.C. band Thee Snuff Project. Their album, Dyin’ Ain’t Much Of A Living was one of my favorites of last year and their live show kicked so much ass it didn’t even matter when they played Lit on their last spin through NYC that the sound system was horrible and the band couldn’t hear each other on stage. It was from that show that the legendary line “Can I get more beer in my monitor?” was born. Thee Snuff Project started a disarming trend of my favorite rock bands disbanding seemingly before their time. It’s been a tough year for rock so hard it makes you want to go out and fuck and fight and start your own band so you can stand behind a microphone with your shoulders back screaming until that vein in your neck pops.
Then it was Mclusky who bit the dust. While their last record admittedly fell off a bit, Mclusky Do Dallas remains one of the best records of 2002. When your lead track is called “Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues,” and have lines that boast, “my band is better than your band/ we take more drugs than a touring funk band,” it’s hard to improve on that level of snarky brilliance. Their greatest strength musically was their bouncy guitar lines over deranged lyrics about murderous porn stars and the best part of their live show was their fuck you attitude. The last time the trio played NYC was during last years’ World Series and the guitar player walked on stage wearing a Red Sox hat. Brilliant.
The Coachwhips break-up hit hard as well. Bangers vs. Fuckers, their ‘break-through’ record, if you could say they had one, clocks in with 11 songs at 18 minutes. The Coachwhips were a marvel live. At a show at the Knitting Factory, the Coachwhips staged a kamikaze rock attack. After the opening band finished I was heading back to the bar and all of a sudden, the Coachwhips started playing. They had set up their equipment in the back corner of the room, ripped through a sweaty 30 minutes and left.
Hot Snakes final show last night felt like an attack as well. As they launched into “Luau,” their final song of the night, the combination of the high of a great rock show and the sadness at the end of an era created an unusual atmosphere in the Ballroom, as people seemed unwilling to leave the grounds of the last Hot Snakes show we would get to experience. Farewell Hot Snakes, thanks for the memories.