On November 6th, I saw one of the most disastrous live performances that I can remember. And it was also one of the best.
Between physical injury, equipment failure, overcrowding, and out of control fans, Hot Water Music's night in Richmond contained all of the important elements of disaster. And somehow, it didn't detract from the show in the least.
Live music can be a funny thing. It's not always about the notes that are played or the melodies that are sung. It's not always about how well songs are reproduced or how polished a band is in their live performance. Sometimes, it's not always about what songs the band plays. On given nights, all that it's about is attitude.
It didn't matter that the night had been dulled by A Static Lullaby's set being cut short due to the lead singer's bad back. It didn't matter that the balcony at Alley Katz was closed, leading the already small venue to seem even smaller. It didn't matter that I had missed the Lawrence Arms, a Chicago band I'd been looking forward to seeing for months. As a matter of fact, as soon as Hot Water Music took the stage, very little else mattered.
All that mattered was this band - these four guys from Florida with fifteen record releases under their belt; these four guys from Florida who smile when they sing; these four guys from Florida who really seem to love what they do; these four guys from Florida who will still need to get day jobs when they take a break from touring; these four guys from Florida who showed up in Richmond for one reason and one reason alone: to entertain.
To be honest, I couldn't tell you in any great detail what Hot Water Music played on November 6th. In reality, it was irrelevant. They could have been singing Barry Manilow covers transposed into indie rock, and I wouldn't have cared. Why? Because Hot Water Music owned the stage from the outset, and did not let anybody doubt that they came to provide a rock show worth remembering.
I know that reviews are generally supposed to inform the reader about the quality of a show based upon the music played. And I can tell you, Hot Water Music knows the ropes -- they've been touring for years on end now, and put on a great show. But the specifics of the music were not what made this show great. An anecdote will best reflect this fact.
As the band retook the stage for their final encore, the crowd surged forward. An overzealous fan in the front row grabbed a mic stand and pulled it into the audience. Other fans followed suit. The result was a disconnected rhythm guitar, no microphones, and no vocalists. Hot Water Music was left on stage with only lead guitar, bass, and drums. Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Chris Wollard took advantage of his lack of equipment by stage diving into the crowd, who enveloped him as one of their own.
It was irrelevant that the music had deteriorated to a fraction of the overall song. It was irrelevant that half the members of the band had left the stage. It was irrelevant that after the guitars and microphones were reconnected, a 12 year old kid stormed the stage demanding to sing the final choruses.
What was relevant is that they let him do it. What was relevant is that Hot Water Music was there as a band with lone goal of entertaining their audience. What was relevant is that they wanted to make damn sure everybody left Alley Katz happy.
And let me be the first to offer them a heartfelt thank you.
Show rating: A
by Chris Connelly, DSJ Staff Reporter