With the surfing at Trestles neatly wrapped up, music writer Chris Parkin dives into San Diego music scene…
San Diego is the home of the Padres, the Chargers and the US Navy; it’s the place to go for world-beating microbreweries; and, just up the coast in Trestles, it has the sort of lusted-after surf spots that demand that the ASP World Tour call in, just as it did last week. In keeping with this masculine image, then, San Diego is also home to one of the finest punk bands to have ever thrashed a guitar in fury.
No, not San Diego homeboys Blink-182, although anyone who isn’t partial to All the Small Things is either lying or ready to meet the Reaper. I’m talking about Hot Snakes, just one band on a very long conveyer belt of revered SoCal punk outfits. And presciently for Red Bull, what with our focus on the surfing in San Diego County, the band have just done the fashionable thing and reconvened. Hot Snakes are back! Back!! BACK!!!
Their history as local punk rockers is illustrious. The most recognisable face in Hot Snakes is John Reis, better known as Speedo, the bequiffed behemoth in pedal-to-the-metal garage rockers Rocket From The Crypt. They were one of the finest festival bands of the late-90s and were almost bona-fide pop stars – albeit for a very, very brief moment – with their stinging, sax-blasted single On A Rope.
Reis’s co-pilot in Hot Snakes is Rick Froberg. The two local boys were originally the driving force behind near-legendary post-hardcore band Drive Like Jehu and it’s somewhere between Rocket From The Crypt’s swinging, vintage rock-spiked garage and Jehu’s roiling and unrestrained fury that Hot Snakes pitch up – a lean, groovesome, agitated and kinetic assault.
The band released three albums, Automatic Midnight, Suicide Invoice and the towering Audit In Progress, before splitting in 2005. If any stronger recommendation were needed, how about this: John Peel was a massive fan and he was a man he knew a thing or two about good, face-scorching punk bands…
Hot Snakes’ reunion, which will see them playing ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas in Somerset this December alongside Wild Flag, Battles, Flying Lotus, Gary Numan, Caribou, The Field, Four Tet and more, came about after Reis’s The Night Marchers played on the same bill with Froberg’s The Obits. The two performed an encore together and the deal was signed. Visit their rudimentary site to see if they’ll (begrudgingly) add more gigs.
Southern California is, of course, no stranger to angry young men. Maybe it has something to do with Richard Nixon being a local boy, from nearby San Clemente. But from LA down, the region has birthed Black Flag, X, The Descendents, The Germs, The Screamers and far too many more to list. And more keep coming, from straight-up punk-pop outfits such as Angel & Airwaves to the skewed vision of punk that’s been emerging from LA venue The Smell, host to Health, No Age and The Mae Shi.
All of this neglects the other fine sounds in Southern California, such as the Brainfeeder gang (Flying Lotus, Thundercat etc), as well as other San Diego heroes Frank Zappa, Eddie Vedder, The Crocodiles, Wavves and the city’s most terrifying, The Locust.
We can’t mention them all. But two current San Diego bands we have time for are the rather subtler and more dignified music peddled by dreamy electronicists The Album Leaf and woozy, 70s-styled The Donkeys. They won Best Rock Album at the San Diego Music Awards 2011 for their Born With Stripes record – and definitely transcend that terrible name.
Over a hundred different varieties of city-brewed beer and a limitless supply of fine bands – we’re there.