Snake Sighting

Tonight’s headliners at the Belly Up, the Night Marchers, San Diego knows well; three quarters of the band’s members were together from 1999 to 2005 as Hot Snakes.

The fourth Hot Snake was singer-guitarist Rick Froberg, a native son and graphic artist who transplanted to New York over a decade ago. (Before Hot Snakes, Froberg and Night Marcher front man John Reis played in Drive Like Jehu — they started out together as teens, in Pitchfork.)

Froberg returned to public music-making in 2008, fronting the New York–based band Obits, which already has a self-released single out. Those who’ve caught the Obits’ first shows this year have witnessed something different from Froberg’s previous bands: no John Reis on lead guitar, natch, and a more rootsy, blues-based rock than his earlier art-punk ensembles.

Froberg’s voice, still a formidable power-yowl, is used in more trad singing. His guitar-playing, paired with that of Sohrab Habibion (ex-Edsel), is more flowing, less choppy.

It’s a different sound. Froberg gave the hardware specs by email: “Sohrab plays an old (not sure of the year, probably ’60s) reverse Gibson Firebird, and occasionally a Gretsch Silverjet. I play a Harmony Bobcat, and sometimes my ’78 Telecaster Standard. Sohrab uses a Music Man ‘twin’ [amp] and I use a ’71 Deluxe Reverb with a Weber speaker.… I may need something a bit louder, though it does sound great.”

Earlier this month, people in Philly, NYC, and Boston got a chance to make Night Marchers vs. Obits comparisons when the two bands shared the bills.

Hot Snakes bassist Gar Wood has moved to guitar in Night Marchers, squaring off on his lefty Gibson SG against Reis’s blond Telecaster to produce a gnarly rock ’n’ roll roar.

Wood, vet of many celebrated SD bands from Fishwife through Tanner and the current Beehive and the Barracudas, recalled old gigs for early twentysomethings standing around the merch table — like the time Pitchfork opened for Danzig at the long-gone Point Loma club Rios: “Dude, so funny: Danzig comes out, their hair soaking wet like they’ve been rockin’ so hard — and they hadn’t played a note yet!”

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