Gainesville, FL sons Hot Water Music picked off one more date of their reunion tour last Saturday at New York megavenue-cum-Thunderdome Terminal 5. The size of the room took a lot more than a love bite out of the immediacy of the sound, and the balconies were layer-caked one on top of the other up to a noise-devouring infinity, such that the crowds pressed to the banisters seemed more like tired go-go dancers at a purgatorial camp X-ray than witnesses to one of the greatest stories of rock rejuvenation ever told.
Despite the antiseptic surroundings, the band put heart to grindstone and spat gravel from across the full breadth of their prolific 10-year-plus catalog of seminal punk rock.While it was great that the weekend in New York was running on like a punk Woodstock with at-it-then and still-at-it-now bands like Alkaline Trio, Dillinger Four, Circle Jerks, the Dirtbombs and the Breeders also playing shows all over the city, seeing a bar band like Hot Water Music in a big, sterile rock hospital like Terminal 5 gave me pause.
“Maybe I should be vamping and sweating with the kids at the show of a much newer band instead of continuing to meditate on this life-changing post-hardcore bullshit,” I thought. “Maybe I really should be getting innocuous.”And then I remembered Nelson Algren and the words Irish poet John Montague purportedly spoke to him as he leaned in imposition, his coat open, in a frozen Dublin doorway already 50 years ago: “We don’t want your Coca-Cola culture around here. Our Ancient Nation is not on the market for cool sound.”Short-sighted culture-Yankee go home, I said to myself.
Within the first three songs I was lamping a smile ear-to-ear to slow anthems “Radio Free Gainesville” and “Rooftops”, and I knew that the music was going to be OK without any curating for cool. The time had arrived to abandon myself to wild enjoyment of the show and my overpriced gin and tonic, only checking in occasionally to return the love and appreciation the band threw to the crowd. Tepid reunion rock, this was not.