Hot Water Music/Coheed and Cambria/Curl Up and Die - live in San Francisco (Cover Artwork)

Hot Water Music / Coheed and Cambria / Curl Up and Die

live in San Francisco (2002)

live show

Going to a show without a ticket is a risky proposition. Sometimes you get lucky and get in for face value and sometimes you get ripped off or can't find a ticket at all. I grossly underestimated the popularity of Thrice and tried too late to get a ticket. But my love for Hot Water Music surpasses all reason so I chose to head over to Slim's and try to get a ticket anyway. Getting there fairly early, I formed a bond with several other ticket searchers. Despite our competition there's an unspoken friendship between those who have been shut out from seeing a favorite band. Fortunately I lucked out and an older couple (and by older I mean late 20s, it sure seems old what with the low age group that Thrice seems to draw) agreed to give me their extra ticket at will call for face value. Then they asked me who I was there to see, to which I responded "Hot Water Music." The man told me that if I had said any of the other bands, he wouldn't have given me the ticket. HWM fans look out for their own!

I made my way in and snagged myself a nice spot one person back and on the left side of the stage. I waited patiently for the first band to take the stage and was entertained by the two sixteen year old girls in front of me talking about who slept with whom and what bands have the cutest members. They were so stereotypical that it was almost funny. Anyways, Curl Up and Die hit the stage. The crowd barely moved but I can't say that there was any reason for them to. Bands rarely come that one dimensional. Repetitive metal-core riffs, repetitive screaming, ad nausea. I love hardcore, but it gets scary when the vast majority of the bands are this afraid of progression. Sure, sometimes it's nice to have a one dimensional band that you can go nuts to when you're angry, but Curl Up and Die didn't even fit that bill. The music was heavy but not intense. The riffs were so recycled that it stole any chance of being "turn off your brain and have fun" music. So it pretty much failed on all levels. On the other hand, the girls in front of me thought the guitarist was very cute, so take that for what it's worth.

Coheed and Cambria started setting up. I think more people were talking about the singer's massive fro than the actual music. Not that there's really that much to say about their music. They probably don't deserve to get stuck with the "emo" tag but it doesn't look like they'll be escaping it any time soon. I know there's more to them than that, but I'm pretty sure that most of their fans like them because the singer has an inhumanely high, whiney voice. Now I'm not saying all of their fans feel that way, but it seems like a high percentage do. They get lumped in with the whole "Saves the Day/Taking Back Sunday" group mostly because of the vocals. And truth be told, the vocals are horrible. They're high to the point of annoyance. Musically, everyone loves to rave about how intricate their guitar lines are. Yeah they're intricate, but they're still boring. They just meander around and don't really go anywhere. It's not bad, it's just mediocre. I know I'll get ripped apart for saying that, but I have my right so speak my mind and that's how I feel. They did seem to have a big following. Lots of kids were singing along looking all weepy eyed. There was also lots of good-natured heckling. While it was funny, I have to question the mentality of someone that is so desperate for attention that they'd yell between every song just for a reaction. Anyways, the band played with a good deal of intensity, but it didn't bring their music past the realm of mediocrity. Not bad, not good, it's just there. And just being there isn't good enough when you're playing with Hot Water Music.

Hot Water Music took forever to finally set up but it was worth it. It was my sixth time seeing them and yet it never gets tiresome. They grabbed me from the first note and never let go. The sound was fucking terrible. I was standing right in front of Chuck and all I could hear was his guitar. All the vocals, the bass, the drums and Chris's guitar were all on the right side and barely audible. But that didn't stop the band from being amazing. I've seen HWM "on" (like at Gilman) and I've seen them "off" (like opening for Bad Religion) and tonight they were ON! I was worried about the reaction, since they seemed to have lost a lot of fans since their Epitaph releases and a lot of their other fans probably didn't want to see them play with Thrice, but the reaction was great. The Thrice fans just sorta stood there looking confused but the HWM fans went nuts. I completely lost myself in the music. For a good fifty minutes I forgot everything in my life and just concentrated on the music. I lost my voice screaming along. I pointed my finger, I head banged, I just let the music absorb me. The aforementioned girls in front of me thought I was crazy, but I was not alone. All around me there were people just losing themselves in the music. Highlights included the huge sing-along for Three Summers Strong and the mic grabbing of It's Hard to Know. Rarely have I gotten so into a band's performance. I was nervous that no one was going to be into the Flight and a Crash material since it seemed to be so maligned by HWM fans ( I happen to love it), but every single song got a great reaction. Another plus was the set length. Since HWM was the first of two headliners instead of the last of three opening bands, they got to play a full set instead of an abbreviated one. The band was tight as hell and their energy was without limit. And you could tell by their wide grins that they were having a great time. By far the best I've ever seen them. Definitely an experience to remember.

After Hot Water Music I decided it was time to leave. I was dead tired and there was no way Thrice could possibly have measured up to what I just witnessed. Honestly, Thrice is painfully overrated. Yeah, they have some good riffs but it's not enough. The screaming is bad and the singing is worse. The melodic parts just don't gel well with the heavy parts. And the "sensitive guy" lyrics sound painfully forced and cliché. It really only feels like they got popular because they got associated with a trend (though to their credit, I doubt they intended this). I know I'll get even more crap for this than I'll get for my comments about Coheed and Cambria, but it's how I genuinely feel. There is just nothing special about Thrice. Hot Water Music is everything they aren't. Appreciate HWM now, because years from now they are going to be remembered as one of the great bands of this period. Bands of this caliber do not come around too often. I was planning on writing this huge spiel on how amazing they are and how much their music means to me, but words just aren't doing it justice. So many bands today write some obvious lyrics about broken relationships and people get all excited and talk about how much it means and how easily they can relate to it. Hot Water Music's lyrics are real. They are about life. They are not cliché and they are not trite. People talk about the connections they have with certain bands, but very few people have as genuine and real connections as Hot Water Music's fans do. It may sound like pointless hyperbole, but HWM is amazing and that's all there is to it. If you haven't, go get something by them. Everything they've done (except for Finding the Rhythms and their tracks on the split with Alkaline Trio) is amazing. 4 and a half stars for HWM, one and a half for everyone else.

I also managed to snag HWM's set list. It was: Remedy / A Flight and a Crash / No Division / Not For Anyone / Paper Thin / Three Summers Strong / The Sense / Swinger / Free Radio Gainesville / I Was On a Mountain / Choked and Separated / Jack of All Trades / It's Hard to Know / Turnstile / Manual