Hot Water Music @ Corona Theatre – 29 & 30 January 2020

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Hot Water Music in Montreal

When a band announces a multi-night residency in a city, you can usually be sure of 1 of 2 things:

  1. The band is playing a hometown show.
  2. The city is a giant one, like Los Angeles or New York.

It’s a truly refreshing change, then, that Gainesville’s Hot Water Music have been performing 2-night residencies across the globe for the past year or so, in cities with which they have no apparent affiliations, simply in celebration of 25 years together as a band.  Each night features one of their records in its entirety; either 1999’s No Division or 2002’s Caution. When speaking to our friends at Bad Feeling, bassist Jason Black explained the rationale for choosing those 2 records in particular: “we literally just threw up a total off-the-cuff Twitter poll, like, “What records would you want to see us play?” And those were the two that won.”  Sounds a good enough reason for me!

And so, Montreal gets No Division on night 1.  Founding member Chris Wollard remains at home in a state of recuperation, so The Flatliners’ Chris Cresswell continues to fill in, but besides that, the band is exactly as it was 25 years ago.  As the band barrel into Southeast First to open the show, its clear than frontman Chuck Ragans voice is exactly as it was 25 years ago too; rough, gravelly… and absolutely unmistakeable. Free Radio Gainesville and Rooftops sound enormous, with Chuck, Chris, and Jason all providing vocals on the thunderous choruses.  As the band hurtle through that record, it somehow sounds slicker live than in its recorded form, but still manages to retain its raw feel. Driving Home sees the stage lit dim red in a bona fide stadium anthem moment before In Song closes out the record in frantic fashion.

After paying tribute to Chris Wollard, and subsequently crediting Chris Cresswell as the reason that these shows are even possible, both Chuck and Chris run through a moving acoustic rendition of State Of Grace.  Drag My Body starts in a similar manner before Jason and drummer George Rebelo return to the stage to ignite the song.  The rest of the set provides a selection of cuts from the rest of their impressive discography. A Flight And A Crash is every bit as ferocious as ever, while Never Going Back sets off a massive clap-along from all assembled.  Remedy and Trusty Chords from the Caution record sees the pit bounce around furiously too, which bodes well for Night 2 when that entire record gets an airing! As the set wraps up after 70 minutes, Chuck proclaims: “we hope to see you for another 25 years!”  Absolutely – actually, you’ll be seeing me again tomorrow pal!

Setlist – Night 1

  1. Southeast First
  2. Free Radio Gainesville
  3. Our Own Way
  4. It’s Hard To Know
  5. At The End Of A Gun
  6. No Division
  7. Jet Set Ready
  8. Rooftops
  9. Hit And Miss
  10. Driving Home
  11. In Song
  12. State Of Grace
  13. Drag My Body
  14. The End Of The Line
  15. God Deciding
  16. A Flight And A Crash
  17. Never Going Back
  18. Vultures
  19. Remedy
  20. Trusty Chords
  21. Turnstile

As I drive into the city for Night 2, I’m excited to do this all over again, this time with the Caution record, my personal favourite of Hot Water Music’s catalogue.  It seems like I’m not alone in my love for this record; upon arriving at Theatre Corona, the place is notably busier than last night. The security guys on the door estimate another 100 or 200 in attendance compared to yesterday, and it seems to make a difference to the atmosphere too; as the show opens with the colossal Remedy, it sounds, and feels, even better than it did last night.  So does Trusty Chords, which comes right after. I Was On A Mountain draws another huge singalong when the chorus breaks down, as Chuck backs off the mic to let the crowd drown him out. Alright For Now and Wayfarer are other standout moments, the latter sounding every bit as anthemic live as it does on the Caution record, with Chuck, Chris, and Jason bellowing the “woah-oh woah-oh woah-oh” refrain in perfect harmony with the now-rabid crowd.

The rest of the set follows a similar pattern to last night, with Chuck and Chris going acoustic again, first for a stirring Old Rules, and then deviating from the planned setlist to run through State Of Grace too; perhaps they are enjoying themselves a little more tonight too?!  Choked And Separated, Rebellion Story and the anthemic blast Mainline come soon after, before the band close out the 75-minute set with It’s Hard To Know, from the No Division record, wrapping up the residency with a sense of symmetry, ending it as they started it! A truly epic two nights from Hot Water Music; here’s to the next 25 years!

Setlist – Night 2

  1. Remedy
  2. Trusty Chords
  3. I Was On A Mountain
  4. One Step To Slip
  5. It’s All Related
  6. The Sense
  7. Not For Anyone
  8. Sweet Disasters
  9. Alright For Now
  10. We’ll Say Anything We Want
  11. Wayfarer
  12. The End
  13. Old Rules
  14. State Of Grace
  15. Drag My Body
  16. God Deciding
  17. Choked And Separated
  18. Rebellion Story
  19. Mainline
  20. Never Going Back
  21. A Flight And A Crash
  22. It’s Hard To Know
Cancer Bats
The Fullblast

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Mell Martella

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