I should start off this review by saying that this show had the potential to be a massive disappointment. You see, this was supposed to be the last time I saw Fifth Hour Hero in light of the recent breakup news. So naturally, when my friend and I arrived and saw a sign posted as we entered the Ottobar saying Fifth Hour Hero would not be playing the show, we were disappointed to say the least. The only consolation is that I was able to catch Fifth Hour Hero a couple months back on tour with the Draft.
The Ottobar: If there's one place I will greatly miss if I ever leave the Baltimore area, it's the Ottobar. I can't really say I've ever been to a bad show here over the years. Generally great crowds, laid-back staff, and affordable drink prices are some of the advantages.
Onto the show. The first band was a local band called Tenwatch. I'd heard some of their songs on their MySpace at one point or another. Their sound is pretty much straightforward, fairly melodic punk. They seemed to enjoy being there and displayed some decent energy. I'll put it this way: I've seen many worse opening bands than Tenwatch. I believe they were giving out some of their CDs at no charge as well, which is always nice.
Next up was Tim Barry and his band. I've got to admit, I was taken back a little bit at how many people Tim was touring with. For some reason, I was under the impression his act was just him and maybe a couple other people. After the five-piece set up, they opened with a great rendition of "Dog Bumped" and quickly caught the attention of the crowd. One of the first things you'll notice about seeing Tim Barry and his band is they appear to be more like a family, as my friend put it, on stage, than performers. Tim's set consisted of the better part of his debut CD littered with some great storytelling in between and during the songs. Stories of train-hopping, shaking up the daily grind of life, not overworking yourself, and even talking down a woman who was intending to jump in front of a train because she was losing her house were included. His honesty absolutely grabbed the crowd and almost every single person in the place was shouting along to the chorus of "Avoiding Catatonic Surrender" by the latter half of the set. Tim explained to the crowd how this is like therapy for him, his journal entries, and it's easy to see exactly what he means while he plays. This was one of the most honest performances I've ever seen and thusly left this show a flat out fan of Tim Barry and his band. Highly recommended.
After a short setup, Smoke or Fire came on stage. To add to the potential disappointment, Smoke or Fire was playing as a three-piece this night. Their second guitar player had to attend to some "pretty serious" family business, as described by their singer. Luckily, if there's one thing you can't ever accuse Smoke or Fire of lacking, it's energy. I think this was the fifth time I've seen them, the first being on tour with Against Me! before Searching for a Former Clarity came out. They've really taken their live show to the next level since then and this night was no exception. The band tore through a highly energetic set heavy on Above the City songs. They didn't play a ton of new songs, which is probably attributed to the absence of their second guitar player. By far and away the highlight of this set for me was the inclusion of "Cryin' Shame." This is a song I've never heard them play live as far as I can remember. It was a gut-wrenching performance with the whole crowd screaming at the top of their lungs along and often times overpowering the mic'd vocals. As if that wasn't enough, Tim Barry came out for the second half of the song to join in on vocal duties. I don't have a whole set list but some of the other highlights were "Culture as Given," "Filter," "California's Burning" (closing), "Delawhere," "Cops and Drugs" and from the new album "What Separates Us All" (opening), "Melatonin," "Little Bohemia" and "Shine."
All in all, this was a show that could have been a disappointment but turned out to be one of the better Wednesday nights I can remember.