Saturday Afternoon: Cobra Starship at Cactus Music

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Photo by Linda Leseman

Cobra Starship Cactus Music February 23, 2008

Better Than: What’s better than a free show?

Download: Listen to songs from the new record on MySpace

Judging by the turnout at Saturday’s Cactus Music in-store performance, Cobra Starship has an adamant teenage following in Houston. At least, the audience looked teenaged. Kids mature so quickly these days, the fans might have been in Kindergarten for all I know.

The unplugged gig was promo for the real, plugged-in deal – that night’s concert at Warehouse Live. It was also a meet-and-greet, album signing of the new record ¡Viva La Cobra!, and dream come true for the unfortunate fans who couldn’t score tickets to the evening show. (Or maybe their parents said it was past their curfew.)

The band was scheduled to play at 2:00 p.m.; at ten ‘til, Cactus owner Quinn Bishop, who was monitoring the side-entrance-turned-stage-door, turned to a coworker and said, “She’s still waitin’ for ‘em at the venue.” When prodded, Bishop confirmed the band would be about 15 minutes late.

Cobra Starship’s tardiness was not lost on their teenage fans. One young man turned to a female friend and spilled the following hot gossip:

“Oh. So. My mom could’ve sworn that she saw them at Jason’s Deli this morning.”

To which his female friend replied, “That’s probably why they’re late. They’re at Jason’s Deli.”

As technicians readied the stage, Bishop allowed me to step outside for a little one-on-one with the Cobras, who were milling around the alleyway while waiting to perform. The first thing I noticed was that the three band members who posed for my photo op – frontman Gabe Saporta, bassist Alex Suarez and guitarist Ryland Blackinton – are tall. Like, really, tall. As in, definitely over six feet, a stark contrast to the members of the audience, even the adults.

I asked Suarez for details on their evening concert. “There’s a part of our set that’s all keyboards. We’re very excited about that,” he said.

I informed him that I thought “The Church of Hot Addiction”, from their 2006 debut album While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets, was a sexy song. He agreed.

“Have you seen the video for it?” he asked. “We have strippers in it. It’s very sexy.” (Check it out here.)

When asked about Warehouse Live, Suarez said, “I love that place.”

Suarez, Saporta and Blackinton entered Cactus to the accompaniment of audience screams and began their short acoustic set with “The City is at War,” the opening track of the new album. The teenage devotees knew every word by heart. Blackinton kicked off the second song, “Send My Love to the Dancefloor, I’ll See You in Hell (Hey Mr. DJ),” with impressive mariachi-type a cappella vocals. The set included “Bring It (Snakes On a Plane),” from the infamous Samuel L. Jackson movie, and ended with “Guilty Pleasure.”

Despite Cobra Starship’s being a heavily electronic band, the songs held up decently in the stripped-down versions. Saporta is an engaging singer not above interacting with the audience, joining them in hand motions during songs and banter in between. At one point, he asked those present which of them were unable to get tickets to the evening concert. Many hands shot into the air.

“Aren’t you glad we did this show?” He asked.

The answer from the fans was a resounding yes.

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Ever since I saw the CS on an MTV commercial, I have been skeptical of their prowess. But I really do like that song “The Church of Hot Addiction.”

Random Detail: I had to look long and hard at one of the adults in the audience before concluding that he was definitely not David Lee Roth.

By the Way: Cobra Starship has toured with Houston’s Paul Wall. Gabe Saporta related a story in which Wall complimented him on a Starship tune, particularly the lyric, “Hey Mr. DJ, you gotta put a record on, yeah.” However, Wall sang it thusly: “Hey Mr. DJ, you gotta put it in Beyonce.” – Linda Leseman

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