Hot Water Music at Mill City Nights, 2/1/13
Hot Water Music
with La Dispute and The Menzingers
Mill City Nights, Minneapolis
Friday, February 1, 2013
The disconnect between Hot Water Music's recorded material and Friday's show at Mill City Nights could not have been more palpable. On albums, their sunbaked take on post-hardcore is mostly enjoyable and sprinkled with bright flashes inventiveness. However, their live show found them sort of muddling through and most everything sounded like the worst parts of music from about 1995. Their reformation after six years apart that was originally a "for good" break up, birthed a pretty good album with last year's Exister, but hardly any of it showed through at all during the course of the 50+ minutes set that, by the end, seemed to drag on for days.
They opened with "Remedy" from 2002's Caution and from there offered "Mainline" from their latest and the classic "Trusty Chords" also from Caution. It was a snappy, fairly enjoyable opening passage, but from there the set quickly, improbably slid into generic, by-the-numbers territory and by the time the encore was over, the fun beginning had all but been erased from memory. All the songs -- no matter how different they may sound on record -- began to take on the same "three minutes of everyone assaulting their instruments" vibe.
Lead singer Chuck Regan -- who usually has a fairly distinctive voice -- was both lost in the mix and didn't sound like himself at all, which is to say he delivered everything almost by rote and his voice came off as completely non-descript and almost like he was bored. Quite a disappointment as many of the songs they played ("Our Own Way," "One Step to Slip," and "Manual" among others) are the fan favorites, but time again they gave the songs short shrift, racing through the set without emotion and with canned, false passion like they had a need to be somewhere better as soon as the show was over.
The vibe spread into the crowd as well, as very few people seemed to be into the show at all. Many in the back were talking loudly over the music and seemed to have about as much interest in being there as the band did, if not less. As HWM wrapped up the limp set with a completely unnecessary three-song encore that was about as full of life as nursing home sitting room, it began to seem foolish that this band was back together at all, much touring in support of a new album that, admittedly is pretty good -- something that would have been hard to convince anyone of at almost any point during the show.
The band has other projects they began work on after the "final" breakup of Hot Water Music in 2006 and good ones at that. It seemed in witnessing Friday's exceptionally disappointing show that everyone might be better served if they continue pushing those projects (the Draft and Rumbleseat), and pull the plug on Hot Water Music once (well, technically a third time) and for all.
Critic's Bias: While I'm not the world's biggest Hot Water Music fan, I find much of it enjoyable and was stunned at how dated and outright terrible the vast majority of the set was. I was further confused to see how many people were there to essentially pay attention to almost anything but the band as well.
The Crowd: Improbably, full of hippies, something that I have never, ever seen at a punk/hardcore show. It was akin to seeing an old woman in a mosh pit.
Overheard in the Crowd: "They don't have PBR here? This place sucks!" which is something I have heard almost word for word at every show I have attended at Mill City Nights.
Notebook Dump: This is so bad I'm almost embarrassed for them. They can't think that this is a good set.
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