Concert Preview: Cobra Man

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Cobra Man, a Los Angeles-based “power disco” band, will play their second Boston show on May 12 at the Royale, as part of their New Paradise tour. The tour will be followed by the releases of two new EPs—New Paradise 1 and New Paradise 2—in the coming weeks and months. You may have even heard them in a recent Taco Bell ad. Cobra Man were a favorite new and upcoming bands of 2022, and they’ll definitely  be worth catching on this tour while they’re still playing medium-sized venues; you might not be so lucky next time!

Cobra Man played at Brighton Music Hall last year and I was struck not only by the quality of their songs and musicianship, but also their stage presence and the spectacle of their shows. Cobra Man plays a mix of retro and modern styles, or as they call it, “LA power disco.” As lead singer, songwriter, and producer Andy Harry told me, “[I feel] there’s a gap in music history in blending disco—early 80s electronic dance music—and early 80s heavy metal and rock. Those two genres are so theatrical and have such a strong dramatic energy to them.” Disco influences are clear in their heavy use of synthesizers, their grooving basslines, and their layering of harmonies, while rock/metal influences enter in the form of distorted guitar riffs and heavy drumming. Behind all of these influences, Cobra Man’s songwriting still stands out, as their songs are catchy, memorable, energetic, and fun. Personal favorites of mine include “Bad Feeling,” “Cool, Nice,” and “Destroyer.”

Cobra Man is the brainchild of Andy along with co-lead singer and keyboardist Sarah Rayne. Their origin story has something totally unique: it centers around skateboarding. Andy went to school with Tom and Steve Mull of Worble skateboarding, who eventually called Andy when they needed music to use in their videos. It was in LA that Andy met Sarah and decided to work on a disco project. Their first song was “Manramp,” based on a character created by one of the Worble skaters who carries a plywood ramp to facilitate skating tricks. Originally they created all of their music on their own using Ableton, which made it difficult to reproduce their sound live. As Sarah said, “We had to learn to really put on a show. The production had all these instruments, we needed to make it up at the show with performance elements.” The band was signed to a record deal the day after Worble’s first skate video came out.

This lore behind Cobra Man was on full display at their Brighton Music Hall show. Rather than two openers, the second act was “Worble World,” a 37-minute skateboarding video featuring Cobra Man’s music. I was incredibly skeptical at first but was sold after about two minutes. The production of their live set then exceeded expectations. The show exuded energy and had spectacular costumes and lights, an absolutely crazy crowd, and great songs.

This time around there won’t be any skateboarding videos, but Andy and Sarah dropped hints at what to expect. Their seven-piece band is tighter now that they’ve been playing together longer, their production is bigger and better, and they’ve updated their costumes and light show. They’re touring with Stolen Nova and Starbenders, who they say are bringing great energy. And thus far, they’ve noted that the crowds have been bringing “lots of energy in a very pure way.” The crowds know their music now, and the venues have been packed. What sticks out the most to me, however, is how much they care about their craft, writing energetic songs and putting on a stellar live show. As Sarah put it, “we’re tired of people pretending they don’t give a shit.” They love creating music as a group and bringing that energy to crowds.

Be sure to grab tickets to their Boston show at the Royale before they sell out, or catch them at any of the other cities they’re visiting on their tour.

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