The Week's Can't-Miss Performance

The Detroit Cobras squeeze new life into rock oldies.

The Detroit Cobras may play other people's music, but the band isn't just reheating musical leftovers. Like the Dirtbombs, the Motor City quintet ingests soul, rockabilly, and R&B oldies with quick tempos and gritty playing, re-energizing gems from the days when your grammy could shake a leg without breaking a hip.

The Cobras' most recent disc, Life, Love, and Leaving, proves once again that the band knows where to shop for valuable vinyl, offering a collection of covers from biggies like Ike Turner and Otis Redding and obscure artists such as the Guardinias and Mickey Lee Lane. From Mary Wells' soul hit "Bye Bye Baby" to the 5 Royals' rowdy "Right Around the Corner" to Ronnie Mack's slow-burning "Cry On" (one of the best post-breakup tracks around), there isn't a weak song on the record.

Beyond excellent tune selection, the Cobras' strength lies in the velvety voice of frontwoman Rachael Nagy, who has a range so wide you could build a 10-lane highway across it. Live, she's a cross between a howling, tattooed rocker chick and a Motown crooner in control of every husky note she delivers. Nagy alone is enough reason to see this band, but the other Cobras are just as skilled at their parts, delivering a smooth, clean ride that's just chaotic enough for garage-rock fans.

Mindi Chamberlain


Saturday, Feb. 2, at 10 p.m.

Vue and the Vaticans open

Tickets are $10

Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F., 621-4455

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At a time when most cover bands are little more than lame karaoke acts, the Detroit Cobras give the concept a much-needed touch of class, infusing old relics with new relevance. Best of all, the Cobras give the kids a reason to get up and dance like it's 1959.

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