“I’m bringing nothing but my tan to the UK next week for these shows.”
Time moves fast. Since John Reis was most recently in Manchester, the venue that he last played at has closed down and one of his many musical outlets, Hot Snakes, have announced their first record in fourteen years. His last appearance round these parts was on December 1st of last year.
That night, he was Speedo, as Rocket from the Crypt delivered one of the last-ever performances by anybody at the now-defunct Sound Control. Tonight, around the corner, he brings Hot Snakes back to the city for the first time since the band reformed in 2011. They did make it back to the North West of England that same year - in December, at Liverpool's dearly departed Kazimier - and no doubt the management at Gorilla will be hoping that Reis does not represent some kind of concert hall grim reaper.
The difference between that show at the other side of the Mersey and this one is that they were simply firing through the back catalogue back then; this time, there’s more of a purpose about Hot Snakes. They’ve signed to, and reissued their last three albums via, Sub Pop ahead of this tour, and on March 16th, they’ll put out a comeback LP, Jericho Sirens.
You might therefore consider tonight, as the first show on the first proper tour since the record was announced, as the beginning of another chapter for Hot Snakes, and one that’s been waiting to be written for well over a decade. They start slowly. Opener "Death Camp Fantasy", from the new album, has the four-piece displaying palpable signs of rust and frontman Rick Froberg looking uncharacteristically tentative. "Who Died" goes over similarly.
Happily, Hot Snakes might be the world’s premier purveyors of furious riffs, so once they tear through a chaotic rendition of "LAX", all bets are off. The four-piece tap into a rich rock and roll vein therefrom, and tear through a set that primarily incorporates fan favourites. Sweat begins to fly off of Reis during "XOX", and it’s a cascade that never dries up for the next hour or so. Froberg sparks into life on the old-school likes of "Braintrust" and "This Mystic Decade". There’s even a timely, real-world slice of relevance when "Gar Forgets His Insulin" is dropped; apparently, bassist Gar Wood did indeed leave his anti-diabetes medication on the wrong side of town last night, at the yuppie pizza joint Crazy Pedro’s.
Hot Snakes have been on the road, on and off, for six years, but tonight finally feels like the beginning of something more concrete than exhilarating bursts through the hits. The Jericho Sirens incarnation of this band begins here and, for all the predictable lethargy early on as the machinery begins to whir into life, there’s more than a few glimpses here that one of the world’s premier punk groups is heading back somewhere close to top form. Time moves fast, but Hot Snakes have not withered.