Rise Against, The Gaslight Anthem, and Hot Water Music @ Mesa Amphitheatre, 9/28/12
Punk fans really couldn't have asked for a better line up last night. As Tim McIlrath stated in our interview, it was a dream team of sorts, with punk vets Hot Water Music kicking things off, The Gaslight Anthem performing their fourth show to date in Arizona, and Rise Against playing their first Phoenix show in three years.
See the full Rise Against/Gaslight Anthem/Hot Water Music Slideshow Rise Against was part of The Sound Strike, an organization of artists boycotting Arizona because of controversial immigration bill, SB 1070. The Sound Strike released a statement saying it was changing its intent and bands are no longer boycotting, hence why Rise Against finally played a show last night.
See also: Rise Against's Tim McIlrath on SB 1070 and MTV
See also: Hot Water Music's Chris Wollard on Exister, The Band's First Record Without "Any Hang-Ups"
See also: The Gaslight Anthem's Benny Horowitz on Handwritten and SB 1070
I've been to four of The Gaslight Anthem's Phoenix shows (almost every time they've played here), and each holds a special memory. The Clubhouse show as the first concert I went to as a 21 year old. At Martini Ranch, frontman Brian Fallon kept talking about his Nazi-fighting grandpa and turkey sandwiches. Their last performance was at Marquee Theatre, where they played a Lucero cover as the Tempe Town Lake dam broke.
With all of those great memories, I was expecting last night to once again be one for the books. It was actually the unluckiest Gaslight Anthem show I've been to, but more on that later.
Fugazi's classic jam "Waiting Room" played as The Gaslight Anthem took the stage and drummer Benny Horowitz mouthed the lyrics. The song cut out as the band tore into the title track from their third album, American Slang. Most of The Gaslight Anthem's music is rooted in nostalgia and sounds a bit like a punk rock version of Bruce Springsteen...it must be a New Jersey thing.
"American Slang" was followed by "The '59 Sound," which the sparse Gaslight Anthem fans in the crowd adored. After that, the band played a bunch of new songs, including the excellent tune about a relationship gone sour- "Mulholland Drive."
Fallon kept up with his usual wacky stage presence by saying he couldn't hear the audience because of the heat. "What would you guys do if it snowed? Someone from the east coast, bring me a snow shovel...hide in the basement, it's a tornado," he said, before talking about tarantulas and snakes, and somehow relating that all to "Film Noir."
"Noir" and "The Queen of Lower Chelsea" were sultry highlights of The Gaslight Anthem's set. They changed pace a bit with a cover of Nirvana's "Sliver," which Fallon sang quite well. The audience had a lukewarm reaction to The Gaslight Anthem overall-- some even went so far to heckle the band-- but folks seemed to enjoy the Nirvana cover.
Video panels in the background showed images of war and oppression as Rise Against took the stage and tore right into "Survivor Guilt. "Red, white, and blue lights flickered as singer Tim McIlrath screamed, probably giving off some sort of subliminal message to overthrow the government.
"Ready to Fall" was nice to hear early in the set, as fans went nuts and crowd surfed, as they continued to do throughout most of Rise Against's performance.
McIlrath talked about how punk rock taught him to challenge what he learned in school before performing "Re-Education."
"Satellite" was surrounded by one of my favorite scenes from HBO series The Newsroom. Jeff Daniels' character was asked what makes America the greatest country in the world and he explains why it isn't. After the song, the band played the soundbite of Daniels explaining how it could be the greatest country in the world.
Rise Against's set picked up around this time, as fans screamed the first chorus of "Prayer of the Refugee." The band left the stage and McIlrath grabbed an acoustic guitar for "Swing Life Away" and a song dedicated to No Use for a Name and Tony Sly. "They helped define the pop punk sound and the Fat Wreck sound. Without them, there would be no Rise Against," he said, talking about Sly's roles as a father and a performer before playing an acoustic cover of "For Fiona."
During the encore break, the video screens played clips from Charlie Chaplin's The Dictator, while images of war, soldiers, and Presidents Bush and Obama flashed across the screen.
Before closing out their set, McIlrath took a moment to talk about why the band boycotted. A girl nearby flipped them off as he talked about refusing to perform in Arizona, but cooled down as he said he's thankful that fans "give enough of a shit," whether they support the boycott or the legislation. Aside from a mention of the Occupy movement, this was the most political McIlrath got last night. It was a little surprising, given the nature of Rise Against's music, but he did get his message across successfully.
Now, for that bit about bad luck. I was running late to last night's show because of a nasty accident on the I-17, but I got to the venue in time to hear a few Hot Water Music songs. Unfortunately, I had to spend the rest of their set waiting outside the venue because I didn't receive a ticket. I heard a muffled version of "Wayfarer," which sounded good, given the circumstances.
Missing one of your favorite bands live because of traffic and a clerical error is a major bummer. I believe the last time I saw Hot Water was at Bamboozle Left in 2007ish, so I was pretty disappointed. Fortunately, my friend Allyson Bills took a picture of the setlist and filled me in on what I missed-
"HWM started the evening off with one of their better-known songs, "Remedy" to a low-key, but healthy crowd. The 6pm start time didn't stop the die-hard HWM fans, even catching the attention of frontman Chuck Ragan, who was pleased to see some familiar faces in a sea of people who weren't familiar with the band. The band powered through their 30-minute set of playing mostly material from their new album Exister."
Another friend said they were the best band on the bill. Seeing songs like "Rooftops," "Turnstile," "A Flight and a Crash," and "Remedy" on the list bums me out even more, so here's a cool live video of Hot Water Music back in 2002. They even played "God Deciding."
Setlists are on page four. Rise Against Setlist: Survivor Guilt Ready to Fall Collapse The Good Left Undone The First Drop Help is on the Way Drones Disparity by Design Re-Education Blood to Bleed Satellite Wait for me Prayer of the Refugee Swing Life Away For Fiona (No Use for a Name Cover) Make it Stop Give it All
Encore: Broken Mirrors Entertainment Savior
The Gaslight Anthem Setlist: American Slang The '59 Sound 45 Mulholland Drive Film Noir Here Comes My Man Keepsake Blue Dahlia Queen of Lower Chelsea Sliver (Nirvana Cover) Great Expectations
Hot Water Music Setlist: Remedy Mainline A Flight and a Crash State of Grace Trusty Chords Rooftops Old Rules Drag My Body Turnstile Exister Manual Wayfarer
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Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Rise Against, The Gaslight Anthem, and Hot Water Music at Mesa Amphitheatre. Personal Bias: The Gaslight Anthem and Hot Water Music are a couple of my all time favorite bands. The Crowd: College bros wearing Rise Against shirts. Overheard in the Crowd: "KANSAS CITY!" by some girl who had nothing else to say during Gaslight's set. Random Notebook Dump: "Someone yelled, 'you suck'...what a dick!"- jotted down after Gaslight played "Keepsake."