Last night's Hot Water Music show at the Summit was the kind where the crowd pretty much knew all of the songs. But the song that got the strongest reaction, bar none, was "Rooftops," which came in toward the end of the set. The crowd reacted with upraised fists accenting the cadence of the chorus -- and the response was completely organic. No need for pandering from the band.
See also: - Slide show: Hot Water Music's Super Bowl Party - Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music on finally being able to record at the Blasting Room - Chuck Ragan on the absence of a drummer in his current solo setup
After an introduction of music that sounded like someone changing the stations on an FM dial, Hot Water strolled on to stage and got down to business with "Remedy." Chuck Ragan's voice projected with a ragged headiness reminiscent of Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman, only waxing confessional rather than apocalyptic, while Chris Wollard contrasted with cleaner vocals. Both men seemed swept up in their performances, reliving the pain, the triumph, the tenderness transmogrified into a passionate expression of all of it.
At the beginnings of songs, Ragan put his whole body into striking the opening chords, and as the set progressed, Wollard did much the same. And everyone on stage kept up an admirably precarious balance of creatively precise execution of the music and getting carried away with the feelings coursing through the words. Hot Water reached back into its catalog for a couple of songs from Fuel for the Hate Game, including an especially impassioned "Freightliner" and "Turnstile," the closing number.
The main set ended with "Manual," with an extended, almost brooding middle section that sounded like the band had left the realm of anything resembling standard punk rock, which this band isn't anyway. Afterward, everyone in Hot Water left the stage with a wave and no grand gestures and then returned for two more songs, beginning with "True Believer."
Since this show was being held on Super Bowl Sunday, the Menzingers ended up having their set partly disrupted by some focus on the end of the game. But La Dispute got up and played an unexpectedly imaginative form of post-hardcore reminiscent of At the Drive-In and Minneapolis' STNNNG; the band's angular guitar work showed an ear for atmosphere and texture, even when the riffing hit an intensely fast pace.
Rather than just banging it out, the group let the songs breathe. Jordan Dreyer's vocals were pointed yet plaintive and near desperate at points. There was a lot of wiry energy all around with every song, and the band closed its set with the even more amped up "King Park." A lot of times an opening act will clearly be influenced by the headliner, but La Dispute was very striking on its own with its own compelling vibe.
Personal Bias: Hot Water Music perfectly balances the literate with the accessible and the melodic with the cathartic.
Random Detail: Ran into promoter Tony Mason at the show working merch.
By the Way: The barbacoa chili that was being served by Chipotle was pretty good on a night like this.
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