Cobra Starship at the Creepy Crawl, February 1, 2008

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A few years ago, every kid into indie rock decided en masse to embrace hip-hop. Then it seems like every emo-pop band found hip-hop (paging Fall Out Boy). But what happens when aging punks decide to indulge their love of hip-hop and cheesy electro-dance tunes? Why, Cobra Starship, that's what!

Fronted by ex-Midtown vocalist/bassist Gabe Saporta -- whose standard uniform now is a bright purple hoodie -- the 'Ship first found fame for performing the theme to Snakes On a Plane. But after countless tours, a Lionel Richie cover ("Three Times a Lady") and a new album called Viva La Cobra!, the quintet is suddenly a TRL favorite and capable of way selling out the Creepy Crawl.

And really, it's easy to see why the band has caught on: While the tunes are danceable and shamlessly retro -- think cheesy synthesizers and electro-beats in the vein of the Faint, with more rhythm and more of a hip-pop base -- they're catchy and fun. They mirror the carefree, fizzy side of the '80s, when day-glo colors, awkward dancing and stupid hair accessories ruled the school. Songs from Cobra -- "Prostitution is the Oldest Profession," "The World Has Its Shine (But I Would Drop It On A Dime)" and "Damn You Look Good And I'm Drunk (Scandalous)" -- sent the mostly underage crowd scurrying for their cameras and pogo-ing as much as they could in the cramped space. "Smile for the Paparazzi" had an almost tango beat, although "Guilty Pleasure" and its choregraphed dance (see below) had the biggest groove. Despite the sometimes-overt sexual innuendo, the band just oozes innocence and cuteness -- making them basically a perfect, non-threatening teen band.

Because of uber-crowded venue, the people watching was quite excellent. I've never seen so many parents at a show -- if not parents actively participating in the show, by throwing "fangs up" (it's the band's hand sign, you see -- there's an ENTIRE WEB SITE DEDICATED TO THIS, HERE!), rocking out and mouthing the words. I've also never seen so many young, elementary-school-aged kids at a show, including an adorable one who was separated from his dad, but found his way back after Saporta, from the stage, asked his dad to put up his hand. Oh, and did I mention there were also three dudes dressed in full-on ninja gear -- who ended up onstage near the end? Plus, we ran into some girls who baked cookies for the band -- with a cobra made out of frosting! How cute is that? (Thanks, Anna.)

Saporta seemed to be having a ball as the head Cobra, tossing off stage banter that at one point involved making fun of a band member's goth past ("We saw the Cuuure!") and generally being ridiculous and hilarious ("Damn, it feels good to be a gangster!" he said at one point). He hung around after the show in the freezing cold, signing autographs and meeting nearly every fan who wanted to -- a nod to his hardcore days, but also a sign of his genuine passion for the band and its fans.

Fangs up!

Cobra Starship, "Guilty Pleasure"

-- Annie Zaleski

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