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Riot Fest: Hot Snakes

Live Review

Venue: Humboldt Park, Chicago

San Diego punk vets roll back the years

It's been a decade since Hot Snakes released an album, but the San Diego group, reunited since 2011, today prove they're just as relevant as ever.

Snapping and snarling their way through a set just under an hour long, the band - led by the ever-commanding and imposing duo of Rick Froberg and John 'Speedo' Reis - put on a no-frills, no-nonsense performance. But then, they don't need frills or nonsense, because their short, sharp songs speak for themselves. Suicide Invoice is a jittery ball of nerves and tension - not quite melodic, not quite abrasive - that pierces the festival air feverishly.

Listening to Hot Snakes isn't always easy, but that's precisely the point. It's a challenge for the listener - stabbing, staccato riffs and almost off-kilter melodies that sound like they're teetering on the edge of emotional and mental collapse. As such, the likes of LAX and Braintrust - which the band tear through with fiery conviction and aplomb - are full of the band's distinctive, belligerent energy. Of course, as fractured and unstable as the songs can sound, this is a band of veterans, and their performance is incredibly tight, Reis ripping through riffs at an insane rate while Froberg barks out words that sound like they're lacerating his throat.

They also exude an air of cool that's unrivalled at this festival, despite the wealth of amazing talent on offer. They're not the most active of bands - in fact, they do little but stand in place and play - but that's enough, because their blood is clearly still boiling as much as it was when they first started. Of course, the knock on effect of them playing so well just makes you wish they'd sit down and write another album. Who knows if that'll happen, but tonight, they bring the last so well into the present that that feels like a very real possibility. Fingers crossed...

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