Hot Water Music at the Observatory‏ Review by Chris Graue

It’s not often that you go to a show where you’d have paid to see any one of them headline, but one of those golden tickets came along this past week with Hot Water Music, La Dispute, and The Menzingers at The Observatory in Santa Ana.

Obviously these are all great bands with their own dedicated followings, but the crossover between the bands was not tremendous. I carried out an extensive survey (okay, I casually spoke to a few people and eavesdropped a little) and made a Venn diagram of my results.


Which band a fan preferred seemed to be largely based on age. The younger ones skewed towards La Dispute, older folks leaned towards Hot Water Music. Menzingers fans took up the middle. The contrast was always best observed by taking a sampling of the pit attendance during each set.

If you couldn’t guess, this was Hot Water Music’s set. 30+ bro pit!

Typically in situations like this, fans will be resentful towards the other acts they did not come to see. Tonight, that was not the case. Perhaps it was the magic of the early February night air or the massive amounts of barbiturates I deposited into the air conditioning system, but everyone seemed to get along and have a genuine curiosity to be introduced to these other new bands. Perhaps it was only because each band on the lineup was particularly great, but it’s an attitude I wish I saw at more shows.

tomMayTom May: Band Tigger

The room was packed right at the get go when The Menzingers kicked the night off. These guys put on a hell of a show. Everyone is great, but it’s guitarist Tom May that’s the bouncy one for those keeping score at home. They closed out their set with “Irish Goodbyes,” which I’d say is a great starting place if you’ve not heard this band before. It’s my current favorite song. The runner up? Also by The Menzingers: “The Obituaries.”

La Dispute really packed the pit out. Being the youngest set of fans, this was probably the wildest set of the night. Lead singer Jordan Dreyer really commands the crowd well. His moves remind me of one of those old fashioned string toys that I don’t know the name of, but have managed to find a gif of to illustrate my point.
This is not the best sample of this type of toy, but you know what I’m talking about.

Apparently photographs were not allowed during this set, but I didn’t get the memo. So here’s an illegal picture.

laDisputeIf it’s subversive, does that make it better? Because this picture kind of sucks.

I never do quite know what a band’s motivation is for this type of request. I have to assume it comes from some place of artistic control or purity and not wanting to deal with media. This much, I understand. We do kind of suck and if you’re the self conscious type, being asked to talk about yourself to complete strangers every day while being glorified in photographs can be an odd experience. If you’re in a band and thinking of taking this route, know that it does make you sound a little bit self important and I will hear other photographers complaining about you.

Hot Water Music capped off the night with a fantastic set. They have a great rock and roll sound that they bring to punk styling both in their guitar tone and singers Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard trying to out-gruff each others’ vocals. Probably the most amazing thing about watching these guys play is seeing them transform a bunch of 30+ year old bearded men into teenagers. Their audience is transported back to before the band’s first hiatus in both mind and body.


All the way out the door, I heard people talking about how surprised they were by how much they liked one of the bands that they had never heard before. I would hope that this attitude would stay with them and encourage them all to show up to check out the opening bands at EVERY show; the bands appreciate it and the audience might find a new favorite.

Or you can throw stuff at them if they suck. That’s fun too.

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