• Review

Show Review: Hot Water Music Kicks off 30 Year Anniversary Tour in Cincy

Photo Cred: Jared Bowers

Distilling a 30-year career into an hour-and-twenty-minute set would be tough for any band. But when you’re a band like Hot Water Music, I honestly don’t even know how they would begin the process of trying to hit the many, many high notes from a career that’s spanned three decades, 10 albums, multiple EPs and splits, solo careers, and so much more. When you’re a band as beloved and one held as close to the hearts of their fans - like Hot Water Music - it feels impossible to encapsulate so much in so little time. Somehow, though, they did it.

Joining them on this monumental occasion, tourmates Off With Their Heads and another legendary band in their own right, Quicksand, all played stellar sets and ran on the opposite of punk rock time, already an appreciative, humble, well-oiled machine. It was a hell of a way to celebrate several bands who have been doing this for a long time, but never once felt like they weren’t aware of how fortunate they were to be sharing the night with us.


Being the first date of a fairly big, quite long tour like this, it’s always surprising to see Cincinnati as the starting point. Pleasantly surprised, of course, but it’s still wild to see when Cincinnati gets tapped for something like that. Being the first band to play on the first night of the tour, I’m not even sure how I’d handle what that would mean as a band opening for someone like Quicksand or Hot Water Music. Off With Their Heads managed to open for both, and with aplomb. 30 minutes, some deep breaths every few songs, and a 5-minute plus closer, OWTH started the show with all the energy and angst appropriate for a night like last night.


File Quicksand under: Bands I Never Thought I’d Get to See Live.

And you know what? Goddamn they ripped. Their brand of groove heavy, low end, vibey post-hardcore is exactly my speed and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played Distant Populations and Interiors, both albums that any band would be proud to have in their discography, and that they’re essentially comeback albums from a band who was defunct for, what, a couple decades? Just insane stuff. One thing that struck me was just how many folks were there to see Quicksand particularly, though I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me the way that it did considering my own disposition. I was happy to hear so many tracks from the albums mentioned above, as they are - heretical, likely - my favorites, but fans of their earlier material absolutely left more than pleased by their set. Frankly, I’m jealous that everyone on the tour gets to watch them every night - that was a set I’d gladly witness for weeks and never get tired of.


Hot Water Music is a band I’ve been watching live for maybe 20 years. I’ve seen them in 4-5 different venues in 3-4 different states, and every time is unique, and more importantly memorable. My cousin and good friend Kevin is basically their #1 fan, and I credit him fully for getting me into them so many years ago. I was bummed he couldn’t make the show last night - it feels like a set that was made for him, built around the sort of positive-minded, anthemic, brotherly tracks that they’ve made a name for themselves with, the songs that create lifelong fans, the ones with the line and flame logo tattoo one or more places on their bodies.

Taking 30 years of being a band and condensing it down to an hour and twenty minutes, picking the most impactful, memorable tracks from 10 full lengths and a bunch of EPs and splits (their split with Alkaline Trio remains one of the best things either band has ever done, by the way), you know, the ones that folks can sing along to, throw their arms around their friends and shout along with, I don’t envy any band that task. Hot Water Music more so than most.

From start to finish, though, this was a sonic highlight reel of everything that makes Hot Water Music so goddamn special, so memorable and beloved and cherished, and both closely held and constantly shared. While they’re also simultaneously celebrating the release of their 10th LP, Vows, they didn’t pluck too many tracks from it, instead opting for more than a few of the great tracks from albums past (though, please know, Vows rips and is a continuation of a certain kind of renaissance for the band following the absolutely incredible Feel The Void). I was excited to hear tracks from Caution and The New What Next, two of my personal favorites, and I’m sure others were equally stoked to catch tracks from some of their seminal - and scene/sound defining - early work. All around, their set was an appropriate and timely celebration of all the things that make this band so important. Whether it’s their appreciative and humble nature, their energetic and passionate live show, their mix of heartfelt and bombastic moments, or their unique combination of punk, hardcore, post-hardcore, and rock, you can look at any one aspect of what Hot Water Music does and be proud of and excited to be a part of. That we get to experience all of those things simultaneously is a gift, and I think fans of the band left Bogart’s last night knowing that it’s a certain kind of honor and a privilege to be handed a gift like that, over and over, for 30 years.

If this tour is coming to a town near you, just go and thank me later. If you were there last night, I hope you had as much fun as I did.

Cheers to 30 years of Hot Water Music, and cheers to however many more years they want to this rig rolling. I’ll be there singing along.

Hot Water Music

Open Album