Quite the Show: Black Cobra Vipers, Sandy’s & Melvoy at The Chapel


Black Cobra Vipers

Photo and video by Victoria Smith


Kicking things off with a bang last Tuesday night at The Chapel, San Francisco natives Melvoy married the youthful sass and rebellious grooves of early Arctic Monkeys and The Fratellis with the latin flavor of desert-dwelling desperadoes Calexico. Singer/guitarist Emmanuel Castro holds up a mirror on “If I Would” when he begs the question “if I buy you things I can’t afford / would that make you like me more?” You get the sense it’s your problem, not his. After kicking up some dust, they showed us the clouds with a couple airy pop numbers, only to have the skies darken and knock us back down to earth with a thunderous Queens of the Stone Age-style sledgehammer-of-a-riff of which the stoner gods would be proud. Rock-solid and immediately catchy vocal harmonies had me singing along to choruses I’d never heard before, as these guys took the crowd on a ride. Nobody dared stop the bus.

Live Video Clip of Melvoy at the show: 


Next up were Mill Valley surf-crooners Sandy’s. If I didn’t know better, I’d say I was witnessing cabana rockers Real Estate playing the Santa Monica boardwalk decades ago with members of The Zombies. Their breezy, reverb-drenched melodies channel the softer side of surf-pop in the early 60s. Like basking in the sun as a tear rolls down your cheek, Sandy’s has a knack for eliciting gleeful carefreeness and wistful nostalgia at the same time. A lovely and delicate set that had me wondering where the nearest drive-in movie theater was, along with my ’62 Cadillac convertible. I want a vanilla milkshake.

Check out this Sandy’s track: 

Black Cobra Vipers

Headliners Black Cobra Vipers injected a welcome dose of funk and jazzy sensuality into the evening. Singer/guitarist Gregory DiMartino’s vocals are spectacularly chameleonic – I swear he channeled 10 different singers throughout the course of the set, from Nathan Williams to Mac DeMarco to Kurt Cobain, and even George Michael. His soulful, sexy, scratch-howling is a honey-coated smoker’s rasp (whether he smokes or not), fluidly transitioning from quivering falsettos in the upper register to throaty growls, often in the same line. The rest of the band’s not a one-trick pony either, bridging generation gaps by smashing Eric Clapton’s blues guitar into a hookah and smoking it with Foxygen and John Fogerty, these dudes were all over the map. And it ruled.

Live Video Clip of BCV at the show here: 

This whole show felt like the best-kept secret I’ve heard in years. The swaying, singing, dancing crowd seemed to agree.

Written by Dace Hines