Houston punks had two choices last night: Rise Against and the Gaslight Anthem, with Hot Water Music at Bayou Music Center -- still getting used to that name -- or OFF! and Negative Approach at Warehouse Live a few miles east.
I ended up catching both somehow, though our Nathan Smith would write words about the latter. Check his review here.
The long-running Hot Water Music now more or less seems like a side project for singer-songwriter Chuck Ragan, who formed the group in the mid-'90s, coming out of the Gainesville, Florida punk scene that would also give the world No Idea Records and Against Me! along the way.
A little band called Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is in the mix their too.
Brian Fallon of Gaslight AnthemRagan's folk and country-tinged solo work stands alone away from the HWM stuff, but at least he can still belt. That hasn't gone away. He and guitarist Chris Wollard still make great stage foils.
Meanwhile the Gaslight Anthem seems to be on the precipice of something else, something more. As much as I dig these guys -- and lead singer Brian Fallon's growl -- they need something to push them over. Springsteen links -- heh -- have been thrust upon them by the truckload, but they still haven't quite lived up to it.
They need wings.
"The '59 Sound" and "American Slang" are anthemic stadium rockers without a stadium. What's it going to take then? Horns, three-hour shows? I am actually more than happy to take them on as their own animal aside from some mythologized legend in tight-fittin' jeans. They also seem like lifers -- even the guy on guitar who doesn't take off his hoodie. Bassist Alex Levine puts on a GQ-worthy show himself at stage left.
The Gaslighters closed with a cover of The Who's "Baba O'Riley" which made me long for them crank it up one day, maybe lose the passion for once and get stupid. Fallon does a great Daltrey/Vedder impersonation when he is unleashed. Something to explore I suppose.
Meanwhile Rise Against doesn't subscribe to the wide-eyed Americana that Gaslight does, instead raging against the modern political machine with an almost giddy energy. Their show opened with scenes and sounds of strife and struggle before the band launched into "Survivor Guilt" from last year's Endgame.
It's all pretty weighty stuff, but the group lead by Tim McIlrath, makes it soar. Their infectious energy had kids going over the barricades into the arms of security guards at a decent clip. RA and McIlrath put on one of the more-underrated live shows around in 2012, as far as big-budget political-punk goes.
And they make anger catchy which is always a plus.
Personal Bias: I grew up amongst diehard Hot Water Music fans, I love The Gaslight Anthem for all their perceived earnest cheese, and Rise Against puts on a great volcanic live show.
The Crowd: "The Vans Warped Tour: The Fall Semester"
Overseen In the Crowd: The show wasn't as packed as it could have been. HWM had a comparatively small throng next to TGA and RA, but that's understandable, considered that HWM has been around since 1994 and their underground smash Fuel for the Hate Game is now 15 years old.
Random Notebook Dump: Rise Against's noble Alex Jones-biting, fightin' and bitin', 21st century message was more than likely lost on over half the crowd. Here's to the kids that know that Endgame isn't just an album title.