As the six members of Snake Rattle Rattle Snake swilled and shared champagne from the bottle between one another, the whistling and raucous crowd thumped like a pulse to the dance beats and clamored toward the stage to get a better view of the dual drummers.
It was New Year’s Eve at the Hi-Dive. By 11:30 pm, a man was projectile vomiting in the corner; a girl had been blowing a party horn for the past 30 minutes between swigs of malt liquor, and the second-to-last act of rockabillies, a trio of bearded bushwhackers, was wrapping up a pretty solid set.
Several music lovers by the bar suggested that the single digit temperatures and slick, snow-covered Denver streets would affect the evening’s overall turnout. But once Snake Rattle Rattle Snake seized the stage at 12:04 a.m. Saturday, the concern was visibly without merit.
Hayley Helmericks, the long-legged lead singer, with her baritone-on-the-brink-of-bass sultry voice, hopped and gyrated before the crowd, most draped in heavy overcoats, scarves and boots with the fur. A bellow of excitement carried from the crowd at the first melodies of Snake’s track “Dead Men’s Words.” Most sang along and knew the lyrics impressively well. There’s nothing more rewarding to a band than the sound of fans singing your song back to you.
Much like the San Francisco rock groups of the ‘60s, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake utilized psychedelic streams of tie-dyed colors and shapes from a projector. With the images aimed at the stage, Helmericks danced ferociously in the array of colors when the music increased…though her vocals, sadly, did not.
There is a great appeal to her vocal ability, though; very seductive and incontrovertibly well-managed, but when the music intensified, she didn’t join in the crescendo. During one point of the show I anxiously awaited a scream, a shout, intensity parallel to the music. Unfortunately, I waited in vain. Nonetheless, the band’s catchy hooks saved my interest. The members of Snake Rattle Rattle Snake know how to find hooks and, likewise, use them well.
Everyone was fixated and enamored by the soft sounds of the vocalist; the handsome blonde guitarist standing adjacent to the singer and the pair of drummers, still carrying the music with a rhythm that kept the crowd pumping and pulsating with its beats.
Snake Rattle Rattle Snake is inextricably tied like a knot to the Jefferson Airplane era of the 1960s: pleasantly repetitive and psychedelically inducing. I look forward to seeing what they have in store for the New Year.
Simon Moya-Smith is a Denver-based writer and new contributor to Reverb.
Glenn Ross is a Denver-based photographer and new contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.