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Live Review: Hot Water Music, Failsafe & Southport, Islington Academy, London - 21/06/2010

Some bands are wrongly revered in their scene, others have earned the accolade with tireless touring and consistently brilliant output. Hot Water Music are undoubtedly in the latter camp, tonight even the singer of Failsafe refers to them as a ‘seminal’ band. It’s clear from the start that the headliners are the main attraction as the room takes until half an hour before they are due on stage to fill up, and the excitement that builds in the lead up is feverish.

First up are the longtime Southern absentees, Southport. Returning from a break that been too long, the band play a set of soulful punk, which is equal measures Smoking Popes and Hot Water Music with a dash of Sunny Day Real Estate. Southport’s onstage banter and unfamiliar yet brilliant songs, soon caught the attention of the smattering of people in the room, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a few extra fans tonight.

There have been a couple of questionable choices for support acts on this tour, and Failsafe were in my eyes one of them. There are a plentiful number of great UK acts that would be better suited as Hot Water Music support, and as tight and professional as Failsafe are, the majority of the crowd seem uninterested. The Preston band teeter between 'Liberation Transmission'-era Lostprophets and Rise Against. This isn’t a bad thing as they do sound good, but their inspired performance is met with blank faces across the crowd. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that two or three songs into the set, the material starts to sound increasingly similar, leading to the few that were listening to switch off. I am sure this Preston five-piece are destined for big things, but tonight’s show is one to forget.

By the time Hot Water Music take to the stage, the venue has suddenly become filled to the brim. Kicking straight into ‘A Flight And A Crash’, the predominantly male crowd goes off and doesn’t relent until the final notes of ‘Turnstile’, the set closer. It’s clear from the onset that stand in drummer, Dave Raun (Lagwagon), is fully capable of filling the large whole left by usual drummer, George Rebello (now touring with Against Me!), working in perfect unison with the jazz-like bass of Jason Black. For many the rhythm section is what Hot Water Music is all about, and the distinctive bass lines and rhythms are in full force tonight. Others will point to Ragan and Wollards rasping powerful vocals and intricate guitar play, but what is so true on tonight’s performance is that it’s the total package that makes them what they are. The setlist tonight is amazing and packed full of hits.

The band largely (and maybe even wisely) avoid their most recent album proper, and cull songs mainly from their first two Epitaph releases and 'No Division'. The crowd roar back every line to every song, and crowd favourites like ‘Rooftops’ sound like old friends roaring their favourite bar ballads. The time they are on stage seems to fly, and the trio of songs that form their encore are the savoured by all. A timely cover of the Bouncing Souls’ anthem ‘True Believers’ is followed by ‘Choked and Seperated’ and finally ‘Turnstile’, and the band leave the stage to huge smiles and promises of new music to come.

Dan Issitt

Alter The Press!