Bands come and then they go. That’s just how rock and roll works. On some very rare occasions, they come back, and I am oh-so glad these guys came back. On the same day of the release of their first album in 14 years, “Jericho Sirens”, the Hot Snakes brought their loud swag driven wall of sound to the Turf Club in St. Paul. The second that this show was announced, I was signed up to review this. There was no way I could miss this show. No snow storm, no flat tire, no family emergency would keep me away. I WAS NOT GOING TO MISS THIS SHOW! Luckily there wasn’t anything trying to interfere with me seeing this.
Meat Wave is a 3 piece from Chicago. If I had to put a label on these guys, I would put them in the mid-west punk sound. Loud, heavy, riffy and meaningful with no bullshit or gimmicks. The way it should be. I heard someone in the crowd say, “their riffs are just so… meaty”. And they were right and kind of spot on considering the name of the band. These guys were relentless. They just kicked it in at the start of the set and never looked back. I think they maybe had one little breather and sip of beer/water during their whole 45 minute set. They have a new 2 track album with the tracks “Shame” and “Dogs at Night” out. Check it out on their Bandcamp. They also have a couple of albums out on Sideone Dummy with their most recent being The Incessant from last year.
Duchess Says are a band that I was stoked to hear was on this bill. They have that weird vibe about them that makes me question if I’m listening to a punk band or an indie band or an electronic band or anything in between. I like that. I’ve heard about their wild live shows but never expected them to be flat out bonkers. Singer Annie-Claude Deschênes from the start of the show was literally in our faces and demanded our attention. At one point, she split the entire crowd down the middle, jumped off the stage and continued her onslaught all the way down to the back of the room (or the front of the room, depending on how you look at it). Somehow, she ended up on some guys shoulders and they walked around the crowd while she was still singing, and I had the pleasure of helping her get down off the dude by using my shoulders to balance herself down. No big deal. It was cool to be part of the show. Their live show sound is way different than their album sound which caught me off guard but I’m head over heels in love even more now. Out of Montreal, Duchess Says consider their sound “moog rock”. If this is what moog rock is then consider me a moog rock fan.
And on to the main course. The sold-out Turf Club show made it to where I was a permanent resident of the front of stage pressed against a stage monitor the entire night. I’ve never been so happy to be smashed like that while trying to capture photos. Standing in the presence of a band this awesome, I almost forget why I am there. I mean I know why I am there, but I almost forget that I have a job to do. After a quick greet to the fans, guitarist and co-founder of the band John Reis aka Speedo (one of his many aliases) asked the light guy to turn the lights way up so he can see the little dots on the guitar. I don’t know if that is true as I never know what to believe when Speedo says something but from a photographer’s view, I appreciated that! The band kicks straight into the song “Death Camp Fantasy” off of their new album. Usually when a band has a newer album, the crowd always wants to hear the older hits. But not tonight. After the 14 years album hiatus, we were all excited to see if they still had it and holy hell did they have IT. “Have I been preyed upon?” lead singer Rick Froberg screamed followed by a response from the crowd screaming the same thing along with him. Speedo is probably the coolest rock and roller to ever exist. He plays the guitar while dripping charisma all over the place. He owns every inch of the stage. You look away from him for just a split second and he is doing something totally different and posing while shredding his beat up les paul. The band bust into “I Hate the Kids” and the crowd calms down a bit before picking up more steam. At this time, my memory is a bit foggy of the set list order. I tried to keep tabs on the set list but I was too caught up in the moment of the show to retain anything.
They played a couple more songs and someone in the crowd asks lead singer and band co-founder Rick Froberg why they never visit Omaha. Speedo jumps on the mic and says, “Why should we go to Omaha when we can come here to a bunch of people not moving around while we are playing here in Minneapolis”. The crowd WAS moving around and climbing up the walls. This is just Speedos way of getting the crowd more into it. He urged to crowd to howl like coyotes after each song. He then joked that rock and roll hasn’t really hit Minneapolis yet and that Minneapolis has a rich history of bands that never mattered to anyone in Southern California. He then tells us he’s “just kidding” noting all the influential bands from here. He goes on to tell the crowd that it’s his birthday and he’s happy to spend it here in Minneapolis. He wanted everyone in the crowd to help celebrate his birthday and go crazy at this show. The thing is, I’m 99.999% sure it wasn’t really his birthday. But the mystery behind his real birthday is another story. He just wants everyone in Minneapolis to have a good time tonight. After another song, one of the Snakes roadies tells Speedo, “You aren’t in Minneapolis, you in St. Paul fool!” Speedo says “WHATS UP ST. PAUL!!! Ohhhh I love St. Paul, I love St. Paul” to a huge pop from the crowd. He then again thanks the crowd for helping him celebrate his highly suspect birthday. After St. Paul is finally recognized, they immediately jump into “Six Wave Hold-Down”. The first single from the new album. I could tell the crowd was so into it by the extra amount people pushing me up into the stage and monitor. I was so into it. The song sounded amazingly good live. These guys do their job and they do it right. They play a slew of older songs which included a surprise singalong of “Automatic Midnight” which saw people flying over my head and a huge push from the crowd.
The band plays one last song before retreating to the back for a quick breather. When they hit the stage again, Speedo tells the crowd that he loves St. Paul so much that he even drinks the tap water here. But not on stage. He sticks to bottle water on stage. But believe him that offstage, he drinks that tap water. They now go into the final stretch of the show with the new tack “I Need a Doctor” to a surprisingly huge response from the crowd. “I need a doctor baby” screams Froberg which is reciprocated from the crowd. I knew what songs haven’t been played yet and knew I was about to be in a world of hurt once the kicked into “Hi-Lites” from their third album Audit in Progress. To say the crowd was into this would be an understatement. Fist in the air, screaming word for word and jumping up and down was the theme for the rest of the night. They finally wrapped up the set and made sure to high-five and shake hands with all the fans. They were appreciative of us being there just as much as we were of them being there. The downside to the night is that they were basically sold out of everything at the merch table except for a couple stickers and a couple of t-shirts. That is actually a good thing but damn, I wanted to grab that new vinyl from them. But luckily, I can just go to sub pop and grab it and so can you and I highly urge you guys to grab one here or stream it where ever you stream your music.
A band like the Hot Snakes were a force to be reckoned with and they are even more a force to be reckoned with. They proved that hands down with “Jericho Sirens”. It’s brutal, loud, catchy with plenty of riffs and piercing vocals. Everything a Hot Snakes album is known for. As the old saying goes, just like wine, it gets better with age and you can apply that to the Hot Snakes too.
I can finally check off another one of my bucket list bands.