It was the early spring of 2005, and I was in the hazy hours of my late 20s, learning how to work really hard and still lose money booking rock shows at the War Room. I don't remember how the news of Hot Snakes' imminent breakup arrived in front of my eyeballs, but there it was. "The best live show I've ever seen... twice," I blathered for years to anyone who would listen. War Room owner Marcus Lalario was more pragmatic: "Get 'em to come up here," he said. And so I tried. Armed with only earnestness and delusional naiveté (still two of my better assets), I sent a desperate plea to the info e-mail at Hot Snakes' website. Barely 30 minutes later, I received a response, presumably from either frontman Rick Froberg or guitar man John Reis—both idols in my book. All it said was: "Sorry man, we're just trying to end this thing." Nice that they seemingly still cared about their crazy fans, but, alas, they were done.
As you may well know, Froberg and Reis have worked on and off together since their teenage years, starting in San Diego as Pitchfork, then with Drive Like Jehu, which released two revered albums of snarling post-hardcore brilliance that made their core of fans into a fervent mob. Then Reis's other outfit, Rocket from the Crypt, found commercial success and a major-label record deal with Interscope, and Jehu disbanded shortly thereafter (even though it was rumored that Reis had successfully demanded the label also release Jehu's Yank Crime as part of the deal).
Fast-forward half a decade, when Reis began writing songs with Jason Kourkounis (of the Delta 72) and they approached Froberg to sing vocals. Lightning does strike twice—Hot Snakes were more guttural than anything they'd done before, with Froberg and Reis's fiery, churning guitar lines twisting into each other as seamlessly as one song does into the next. Live, they'd always fire through the songs in the same order as the album—no stops, no bullshit. The result for those who know the music is pure adrenaline and glee. And while Reis's main focus is now on his band Night Marchers and Froberg's is on his latest group, Obits, neither really touches the cathartic, thunderous genius they channel when they're together. You'd be a fool to miss it this time.