The second song on the Burning Brides’ third album Hang Love is titled “San Diego.” The Philadelphia-born/L.A.-based neo-grunge trio played it last week at the Casbah. When the record was released last June, reviewers singled out the number. Peter Lindblad in Goldmine admired the song’s “stoner-metal destruction.”
In his long mixed review for the webzine PopMatters, Barry Lenser made allusions to Cameron Crowe’s largely SD-set quasi-autobiographical film Almost Famous, including the flick’s fictitious composite band: “Burning Brides embody the precarious appeal of Stillwater.” Lenser went on to praise “ ‘San Diego,’ a bracing charger which, in some way, must be ironic. Why insert angular, Rage-esque riffs over a subtext that involves California’s fat-cat conservative stronghold if not for a dose of mild comedy?”
It appears nobody pursued a link-revealing clue in the lyrics: “I’m looking for something to take/ I’m looking for a missing hot snake…”
On the publicity one-sheet explaining the album’s tracks, singer-guitarist Dimitri Coats revealed all: “It’s an abstract love song with some venting about our former drummer who was also in Hot Snakes. He was the cheapest guy I ever met. You could buy him eight beers in a row and he wouldn’t buy you one. He had real problems spending money and ultimately with being on a major label.
“The Hot Snakes were a cool band from San Diego so whenever we played there it was sort of tense, like hanging out with your wife’s ex-boyfriend.… It’s fitting that the main riff came out of one of the first jams we had with [current drummer] Pete.”
The “other drummer” was Philadelphia’s Jason Kourkounis, best known in SD lately as “J. Sinclair K.” of John Reis’s new band the Night Marchers. Kourkounis, a founding member of Hot Snakes, played in the band from 1999 to 2003. He left the Snakes and toured full time with the Brides, who had convinced him to join in 2002 before getting signed to V2 and migrating west. He left in 2005 amidst looming label troubles and personnel problems.
Kourkounis remains respected and in demand, still playing with Philly’s vet psych-rockers Bardo Pond and others as able. When his touring former band returned to play Philadelphia a few weeks ago, the Philebrity blog ran a listing with an old group photo and this caption: “The Burning Brides (pictured here when they had the best drummer in town and before everybody totally hated them) … For the uninitiated, the Brides are an object lesson in forgetting where you came from and how this dirty old town can drop you like a college girlfriend during your first week as a cast member on The Real World."