Concert Reviews

Live Review: Hot Water Music at Chicago’s Metro (1/31)

on February 01, 2013, 1:58pm

hwm pfleegor3 Live Review: Hot Water Music at Chicagos Metro (1/31)

“All the gold is not in the hit, but in building an audience that digs you.” Mark Olson of The Jayhawks said that, and while Hot Water Music (HWM) couldn’t be further in sound from Olson’s most famous group, I can’t think of a band that better embodies the sentiment. HWM fans don’t mosh. I mean, they do. But they sing. At a sold-out Japandroids concert at The Metro in December, a circle pit formed more out of confusion than passion, the crowd not sure of what to do when the duo wasn’t singing or, more often than not, when they didn’t know the lyrics well enough to sing along. At last night’s Hot Water show (same venue, same-size audience), the crowd moshed because they had to. It was the only way to express their sheer joy and excitement of seeing a band they’ve probably seen a dozen or more times before.

Their thrashing was less push and more sway, a beer-soaked mob falling into each other and howling along to every word. And yes, that includes material from last year’s Exister. Any purist who complained about the songs’ polished production and seeming lack of energy should see them performed live. Chuck Ragan’s extra-gruff renditions of “Mainline”, “State of Grace”, and “Paid In Full”, along with the Chris Wollard’s raspy yet anthemic “The Traps”, all took on a ragged urgency that transcended the vague politics of the songwriting. Then again, even earlier songs–from Jason Black’s plummeting jazz bass on “Free Radio Gainesville” to the sparring duel vocals of set closer “Manual”– have always been more about their rebellious energy than the words themselves, especially live.

hwm pfleegor2 Live Review: Hot Water Music at Chicagos Metro (1/31)

That energy is still there, and for anyone who thinks otherwise, talk to the floor crowd who filled in the gang vocals on “Rooftops”. Or the people who took the microphone (stand included) into the audience on “It’s Hard to Know”. Or the slam dancer who split open his forehead during “Paper Thin”. “Shit, buddy, you alright,” Wollard asked before Metro security hauled the guy away to hopefully tend to his wounds. You can probably find him amongst the “white, white walls of hospitals” repeated in the song. Other than playing “Trusty Chords” an octave lower, Hot Water Music shows no signs of aging, and it’s nice to have new material and new gigs be a regular occurrence again.

Setlist:
Remedy
Mainline
Trusty Chords
Giver
State of Grace
Paper Thin
Jack of All Trades
One Step to Slip
Paid In Full
Our Own Way
Drag My Body
Free Radio Gainesville
The Traps
Rooftops
Wayfarer
Manual
Encore:
A Flight and a Crash
It’s Hard to Know
Turnstile

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