Another train ride made even longer by the fact that I was wearing wet clothes and it had dropped 30 degrees that day brought me to the Bottom Lounge where the Riverboat Gamblers were playing with Fake Problems and the Methadones. The first time I saw the Gamblers and Fake Problems was when they were opening for Against Me! two years ago at Recher Theatre. I was blown away by both bands that night and I couldn't believe my luck when they were going to be playing together again.
I arrived in time to see the Methadones finish setting up. Honestly, I was hoping to miss them. I saw them play some months ago and I wasn't terribly impressed. I like a few of their songs here and there, but their live show didn't really do anything for me. However, that night was a little different. There was a new sense of intensity in their music that drew me in better than the last time I saw them. Maybe it was because I was in a better mood, but for some reason, their songs resonated well with me. The feeling didn't last the entire set as they began to suffer the same problems I had with them last time: They just played too loud. I could barely hear their vocals over the guitars and after a while, it all started to sound the same. I was glad I enjoyed them more this time, but I was really just passing time waiting for the next band.
Fake Problems came through with Murder By Death in February and put on a brilliant show. This was prior to the release of their latest album, but this didn't stop the people who downloaded it early to sing along. The greatest difference in their set this time versus last was the polish on the songs. They brought out their cellist and trumpet player and they made a world of difference. All of the new material sounded so much more rehearsed and felt like they were really able to embrace these songs. They are such a funny-looking group, too. Upon first seeing the singer, you wouldn't expect him to have such a powerful voice, but he really knows how to wail. A majority of their set was from the new album with a few older gems thrown in there. The band's interaction with the crowd was so much better than last I saw them. Clearly, people have been buying the new album and loving it because the band allowed the crowd to carry the sing-along parts of the new songs this time around. It really was a pleasure to see them play so excellently and I hope they do a headlining tour soon.
I remember the insanity that was the first time I saw the Gamblers. The singer was one of the most interesting people I have ever seen on stage. His presence was astounding as he climbed, leapt and bounced around the entire time. I was only a tiny bit worried that some of that energy may have been lost since their new album is a lot slower than their previous efforts, but that fear was quickly put to rest. The band took the stage and exploded into their set as vocalist Mike Wiebe stepped out and remarked, "I'm hungry. Let's eat." From that moment on, it was non-stop calamity from both the band and crowd. This was my first time seeing them headlining in such a personal venue and I was blown away that night. There was no barrier, so Wiebe was making the most of that as he allowed fans to share the mic and would often fall backwards onto the crowd while singing.
What made me most nervous about the night was how the new material was going to fit in with the old. It did so marvelously. I was pleased that they only chose to play the faster songs from the album. Even when they played "Keep Me from Drinking," a song I wasn't too fond of, I found myself enjoying it more. Their set was more or less a collection of all of my favorite Gamblers songs from their last three releases. It's rare that a band plays so many good songs, but I can't really imagine hearing a bad Gamblers song live. Even when they played a super old song, "Old Foamy," I loved it. The only minor thing I have to mention was that when they played "A Choppy, But Sincere Apology," he sang the chorus in a lower key. Obviously this was done so as not to strain his voice, but the song just lacked so much of the energy it originally had. I was a little let down because that song has really grown on me since it was released.
It's clear why these guys are labeled as one of the best live acts around today. Their intensity is unmatched, in my opinion. It doesn't hurt that they write such amazing songs that translate so well live. I know they are going to be touring with Rise Against and Rancid soon, but I'm actually glad I won't be seeing them play that show. They really shined in a more intimate setting and I feel lucky that I got a chance to catch them. They were easily one of the best performances I have seen this year and it's going to be hard to top.
- Let's Eat
- True Crime
- On Again Off Again
- Hey Hey Hey
- Keep Me from Drinking
- A Choppy, Yet Sincere Apology
- What's What
- Pilgrims in an Unholy Land
- Last to Know
- Don't Bury Me...I'm Still Not Dead
- Black Nothing of a Cat
- Old Foamy
- Victory Lap
- Rattle Me Bones
- Ice Water
- The Art of Getting Fucked