Gainesville, Florida’s Hot Water Music took over Philadelphia’s music scene this past weekend with two sold out shows and one acoustic set celebrating the band’s 25th Anniversary. The post-hardcore rockers packed the Underground Arts on both nights, with a full performance of 2002’s Caution the first night and No Division from 1999 on the second.
Metal Insider was on hand for the No Division performance.
No Division, originally produced by Walter Schreifels of Gorilla Biscuits and Quicksand fame, is, perhaps, the band’s seminal work in a massively rich catalog. From the cheerleader opening of “Southeast First” to the gracious closer, “In Song,” Hot Water Music took the ecstatic Philly crowd, who were slam dancing in the pit like it was 1999, through all eleven masterful songs in order. Many of those songs were never heard live by this crowd and so many people in the pit were sharing stories of just how far they came to hear them.
Lead vocalist and guitarist Chuck Ragan has a voice that doesn’t seem to change, though that could be because he always had that raspy voice of a fisherman with a touch of very mature soul from day one. Ragan delivered a performance that sounded like it just came off the vinyl and clearly was energized by the full capacity crowd. Ragan, quite honestly, is a national treasure and he’s already solidified a solid place in American and punk rock folklore.
Jason Black, of course, proves over and over why he’s one of the most gifted bassists in the post-hardcore genre (if not all of rock music) with another stellar performance. Black, by the way, puts on a bass clinic on the band’s most recent EP on Epitaph Records, Shake Up the Shadows. Battery mate George Rebello, per usual, also gave a very high level performance.
While the band was without guitar and vocalist, Chris Wollard who has been on hiatus from touring for health reasons, The Flatliners’ Chris Cresswell more than aptly filled in on both. While Cresswell delivers a slightly different vocal than Wollard, there is no doubt that the crowd greatly appreciated Chris, and, frankly, he did an outstanding job especially considering he had some massive shoes to fill. Cresswell’s guitar work and compliment to Chuck Ragan’s was outstanding. It’s clear his did his homework and practiced a ton.
Here’s some fan filled footage of HWM’s performance of No Division in LA from earlier this year.
The band played some additional favorites after No Division, setting the crowd afire. But quite honestly, this night was a giant sing-along from start to finish with nearly everyone in the room singing every word. The mostly 30-and 40 something crowd even saw a few younger folk who were experiencing the band for the first time and they were more than pleased.
The unfortunate low point of the evening came courtesy of Delaware’s Boy Sets Fire, who’s lead vocalist, Nathan Gray couldn’t seem to overcome some minor issues with backing vocals in his in ear monitors and decided it was best to talk to the sound man about it while actually performing two of the songs. The monitor, which was eventually fixed, sadly didn’t help his lackluster vocal performance, which was unfortunate because the rest of the band sounded great. Gray’s bloviating about politics and challenging dissenters to “tweet him” also seemed to undermine the performance and took the wind out of any momentum the band was able to muster up with the crowd. Gray’s divisive politicking seemed particularly out of place on this night given the strong underlying message of unity in Hot Water Music’s No Division record which was being celebrated that night.
Hot Water Music is playing a handful more dates for the 25th Anniversary tour. Get your tickets now because these will set out and you will be disappointed you didn’t get to go.
You can pick up No Division, Caution, and other HWM releases from Epitaph records here.