Snakes on a mutha-fu**in’ stage
Birds Of Fire fly again, and These Arms Are Snakes fly off the handle
People were probably wondering what’d happened to the petite man with the thin mustache who walked around Café Coda early Monday night sporting a yellowish-purple shiner on his right eye.
It became quite clear later that evening when These Arms Are Snakes took the stage and landed the final blow (ahem) to a night that included especially loud performances from locals Birds of Fire and Nevada City’s sBach.
Prancing like a puppet being manipulated by a holy trinity of Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger and James Brown, black-eyed vocalist Steve Snere spit, screamed, danced, flailed, climbed and crawled all over the small room—I’m surprised he didn’t hurt himself.
TAAS’ angular guitar- and synth-driven rock fits the dark mood of its rainy Seattle home, but the band would also have been right at home in Chicago playing alongside The Jesus Lizard back in its heyday. At times, the songs were as herky-jerky as Snere, who occasionally tapped on a small synth, and sometimes they eased comfortably into hooky riffs that allowed the mustachioed vocalist to do his thing.
The focal-point for fellow Suicide Squeeze labelmates sBach was drummer Spencer Seim, who also does time as guitarist for brothers-in-math Hella and Nintendo nerds The Advantage. I don’t know which was more impressive—his beard or his beats. Seim set up his drums in the middle of the floor and concocted inhuman patterns that, fortunately, let up occasionally for straight-ahead disco shuffles. No vocals were necessary as the crowd grew giddy from sBach’s propulsive dance numbers and Seim’s acrobatic drumming.
The night’s opener Birds of Fire has never needed vocals either, but there was always something missing. The songs have always been there, courtesy of guitarist Matt Daugherty, but with the addition of second axe-man Adam Scarborough and powerhouse drummer Jake Sprecher the band has finally become all-powerful.
It was the Birds’ second show since coming out of a two-year retirement (hibernation? extended vacation?), and they’ve never sounded better. The guitars are bigger and louder, and Sprecher’s drumming is just what songs like the night’s opener “Battle Ax,” and the classic “Surf’s Up” needed—big pummeling; less calculated fills.
Birds of Fire offered quite a contrast to the eccentricities of These Arms Are Snakes (the latter requested a wooden zebra in its rider), but BoF appeared at ease—especially Daugherty, who occasionally cracked a smile, hinting that he’s having more fun playing music than he has in years.