Hot Water Music

support Muff Potter + Red City Radio + Spanish Love Songs
author PP date 22/11/19 venue Columbiahalle, Berlin, GER

Night two in Berlin. Today, we're at the considerably larger Columbiahalle, which can house up to 3500 guests, so an almost six times larger venue for the "Caution" album show in comparison to Lido where the band played "No Division" in full yesterday. It's a large auditorium with a sizable balcony area, an outdoor hangout for smokers, and lots of bars on all sides of the venue to quench your thirst. It's also rammed to its limits, so we're very close to a second straight sell-out if it didn't do just that at the doors. It's an early start with the doors already scheduled for 5 pm and Spanish Love Songs to open the festivities at 6 pm already, so people are still getting off work and buying dinner by the time the band hits the stage.

Spanish Love Songs

I know it's early and the venue is still half empty at this point, but it has to be said. There's a massive difference between the reception to Spanish Love Songs set here in Berlin compared to the set I saw in Manchester last weekend. Back then, the crowd was loudly chanting back every song to an extent that they looked like headliners. Here, it feels like only a handful of people have even heard of the band on stage. They opt to open with the new track "Losers" once again, but it is "Bellyache" that features the first sing-along of the night in the form of the "I don't think I could fix this if I found God" parts. But from here onwards, it's pretty quiet in the crowd and despite band's energetic stance, it quickly starts feeling like the stage might be just a little bit too big for Spanish Love Songs at this point.

Their quieter songs with heavy lyrics just don't elicit the same kind of passionate response from the crowd as they usually do, and the faster, Menzingers-style punk rock songs don't improve things much either. It's a shame because it's just a classic case of a crowd that has no idea who they are watching and why they're such a good band, so the set looks like it goes straight over the heads of most people here. These are the facts despite the band airing lots of "Schmaltz" classics like "The Boy Considers His Haircut", "Buffalo Buffalo" and "Beer & Nyquil (Hold It Together)". There's an awkward comment on whether they'll even be alive in 25 years when commenting on the Hot Water Music anniversary towards the end. Buddy, should we be worried? Even the band members look at him in a puzzled fashion. Anyway, the band does their best but it's simply not their crowd, and alas not their night.

Red City Radio

Red City Radio, on the other hand, looks like the bigger the stage, the better it is for them. Starting with a headliner-worthy sized banner behind the band to the lone entrance of Garrett Dale in rock star fashion, the arena-sized stage looks like it was made for this band. They take everything out of the opportunity tonight, with oversized gesturing, tricks with the guitars, kneeling down on stage and even playing the guitar around another member's neck for a few gimmicks. Their energy and confidence are infectious so they receive a much warmer reception than Spanish Love Songs did just before. And what's better? They have more time than yesterday so they're playing a lot more older songs tonight!

And what a difference does it make to the setlist: first "Two Notes Shy Of An Octave" off "Titles" gets us all groovy and singing along, then the newer songs "Two Out Of Three Ain't Rad", "Electricity" and "Rebels" fit in very nicely and sound great on a larger stage, before "Two For Flinching" from the debut album has pretty much the whole venue screaming along to the "burn this city to the ground" segments. When that is further followed by the fastest track on the self-titled, "In The Meantime..." and another "Titles" track "Show Me On The Doll Where The Music Touched You", the whole set gets an eerie vibe of high-energy that just hasn't manifested itself the last few times I've seen Red City Radio play since the release of "SkyTigers" EP. So even though we get "Love A Liar" sandwiched in between and "In The Shadows" to close out the set, it leaves behind a turbo-charged, positive impression where it feels like the band is going forward in the right direction at full steam. This is what a solid Red City Radio show is supposed to look like!

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Muff Potter

And now for the weird pick of the night. Muff Potter is apparently a German alternative rock band that has recently reunited after an almost decade-long hiatus. They have nine albums under their belt, but they sing all in German which explains why none of us have ever even heard of this band by name before. Not the biggest fan of German rock bands in general, I try to listen with an open mind at first and I get bad vibes of the super-overrated Beatsteaks at their most boring through the first five songs. The germans are all happily singing along to songs we've never heard of, but in all honesty, if you're not German this set was totally pointless. Average songs with no melodies that stick out, nor any energy on stage, means this is a feel-good nostalgia set only for those in the know, which doesn't include this magazine. Nondescript and zzz. If anything, they should have played first to get this out with.

5

Hot Water Music playing "Caution"

Now that Muff Potter is out of the way, it's almost time for "Caution" in full. The venue is packed to its limits and it's extremely difficult to swim into a close-range position to catch a good view. The familiar "I NEED A REMEDY" shouts open the venue into huge sing-alongs that continue just about throughout the entire night. Let me tell you, it is something special hearing over three thousand people shout punk lyrics from the top of their lungs: that's exactly what happens as the band tears through "Trusty Chords", "I Was On A Mountain", "One Step To Slip", the powerful opening quartet of the record. Chuck & co look super tight on stage, the sound is great, and the audience is rocking, so it's all good, right?

Kind of. Chris Cresswell does an excellent job filling in, but I can't help but wonder how awesome this set could have been with Chris Wollard singing the songs instead.

Just like yesterday, Hot Water Music is playing the songs straight with little interaction. There's a single pause in which Chuck Ragan thanks us all for the past twenty-five years, and sends his regards to the sound guys, the people behind the curtains, the merch guys and everyone else in a sincere thank you monologue. But otherwise, we're rolling through "Caution" songs at a nice pace, highlighted by echoing sing-alongs for the big songs and smaller, more intimate ones for the rest (think "It's All Related", "Alright For Now" for instance). "Wayfarer" is, as usual, the woo-hoo session that everyone has been looking forward to. The rarer tracks like "We'll Say Anything We Want" and "The End" are also solid, perhaps not spectacular but leaving behind a great impression of "Caution" once again.

Then, the band disappears from the stage for a moment, before Chuck Ragan comes out with an acoustic guitar to kick off "State Of Grace" which turns back into electric guitars halfway through. "Drag My Body" is a fantastic communal sing-along, and then we start digging deep in HWM material. "God Deciding" off the compilation album "Till The Wheels Fall Off" is a treat, and "A Flight And A Crash" charms as usual with its angular guitars. We get to hear another brand new track from "Shake Up The Shadows" EP, "Rebellion Stroy", before a brief venture into yesterday with "No Division" pulling out a big sing-along. Here's where the band could've prioritized some other tracks than "No Division" material if you ask me, but then again, it's a pretty awesome setlist so far. "Mainline" from "Exister" follows before we finally get something we didn't hear before: "Choked And Separated" from "A Flight And A Crash" is a nice surprise and exactly what the band should have been doing all along. Great to hear old tracks like these given some airtime in between new tracks like "Vultures", which is pretty good from the excellent "Light It Up".

The set is closed with the massive sing-alongs to "It's Hard To Know" and the sublime bass-lines of "Turnstile", which sees the Muff Potter vocalist guesting for a verse or two, and in the end, you're looking at a pretty freaking good setlist. I mean "Caution" in full? When's the next time you're gonna get that, spiced by so many other classics from the band. Still, the perfect show, the perfect rating and the magical feeling just isn't there. I've seen Rancid's and NOFX's classic album sets, as well as The Offspring's and Alkaline Trio's, and at each one of those, I felt like something truly unique and special was happening. Here, during the "Caution" + extras sets, it's more like this: yes, HWM is rock solid and these are some of the absolute best albums in punk rock, so why doesn't it feel more spectacular? Right now, they deliver exactly what we wanted - but the wow-effect is missing despite mass sing-alongs all night. Great as usual, hoped for it to be even better.

8

Setlist:

  • --"Caution" in full--
  • 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
  • --end of "Caution"--
  • 13. State of Grace
  • 14. Drag My Body
  • 15. God Deciding
  • 16. A Flight and a Crash
  • 17. Rebellion Story
  • 18. No Division
  • 19. Mainline
  • 20. Choked and Separated
  • 21. Vultures
  • 22. It's Hard to Know
  • 23. Turnstile

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