This show ended up being one of the greatest shows I’ve seen in recent memory, all thanks to the Gaslight Anthem. I got to Hollywood Boulevard just in time to see several hundred drunken hipsters on bicycles taking over the street. I’d heard of these midnight ride clubs, but never actually got to see one in action. The impression I got from the whole shebang was seeing what would happen if a parade operated with the same mission statement as a swarm of locusts. It looked fun, but I would hate to of been the dude in the middle of the pack who fell over and managed to get run over a couple of times before anyone could stop.
I got inside the Knitting Factory in time to see the openers Max And The Marginalized from Los Angeles. They were a three piece that played kind of collegey type pop punk. For some reason, they kept bringing to mind the Presidents Of The United States Of America, but with more politics and less humor. What the band’s deal is that they’ve been writing song a week about a current event since they started, and were at week twenty-seven (or something around there). It’s an interesting work model, but also resembles homework assignments from high school politics classes a little too close for comfort. I wasn’t really blown away, but then again, they seem like they have the potential to suddenly unload some out-of-nowhere catchy songs, just like the PUSA. By the time they reach week sixty or so they might just be god-like.
Sangre Sangre was up next, and they were the replacement for Nothington who had to cancel at the last minute. I really love Nothington, and thought that a dual bill between them and the Gaslight Anthem was a match made in rootsy-punk heaven. Sangre Sangre and their faux-bluesy southern rock was a piss-poor fill in for Nothington. Someone I was talking to summed it up best: “I’m all for southern rock when the band’s from the South, but I’m pretty sure that the singer wasn’t talking in an accent until he got up on stage.” Plus, there was the weird claim from the singer that the band was from Georgia, which wasn’t being supported by the fact that their drummer is also in the Bronx, and that the rest of the band looked like wanna-be rock stars from Hollywood. If shitty fake southern rock is your thing, don’t miss Sangre Sangre when they come to your town.
Waiting for the Gaslight Anthem to come on, I had one thought which was: “Holy shit where did all these fans come from?” I saw Gaslight last summer play the Scene in Glendale and I could swear that there were maybe thirty people watching them, and of those maybe only ten who actually looked interested in the band. That was not the case tonight, as there was a crowd at the stage waiting in excited anticipation for the band to come on.
For the uninitiated, the best way to describe the Gaslight anthem is to think of Bruce Springsteen fronting the Bouncing Souls at their most anthemic. This really makes sense seeing as all three bands are from New Jersey. At first blush, comparing a punk band with Bruce Springsteen seems off putting. I think a large part of it, though, has to do with the fact that when the majority of people think of Springsteen, the first thing that comes to mind is classic rock radio and its knack for playing “Born in the USA” right into the ground. I’m not going to be an apologist for “The Boss” and say everything he’s ever done is pure gold, because, honestly, I don’t really listen to him much, but as a friend and I were discussing the other day, Born to Run is an amazing record. The brilliance of Gaslight is that they’ve managed to make songs that capture the restless spirit and lyrics of Born to Run, but strip away the huge and bombastic production in favor of punk rock energy.
As soon as the band came on and started playing, the crowd went off in that special way that only rarely happens. The singing along, dancing, crowd surfing, and circle pitting never flagged during the whole set, even when the band debuted a new song off their unreleased, upcoming record The ‘59 Sound. Not one song the band played off their Sink or Swim full length, or their Señor and the Queen EP fell flat. Singer Brian Fallon was clearly in euphoria, seeing as not once during the whole show was he able to not smile. One of the best parts of the show was when he asked the stage divers to take break after seeing three of them eat concrete, and offering to buy them pizza instead, all the while beaming like an excited little kid. The show truly felt like something special, and I haven’t seen a crowd this excited to see a newer band in a long, long time.
I’ve seen a lot of good melodic and anthemic punk bands like The Draft and Loved Ones, and even some great ones like Nothington and American Steel that have come around as of late. I’m going to go out on a limb though and say that, if what I saw was any indication, Gaslight Anthem might just transcend into a really rarefied air and be the next Against Me! And I mean the awe-inspiring Against Me! of Reinventing Axl Rose and As the Eternal Cowboy, who were able to cross boundaries on the force of their conviction and talent and appeal to nearly everybody who heard them. People connected to Gaslight Anthem in a way that doesn’t happen too often and it’s exciting to see just where they end up in a few months’ time. Unless Gaslight did something really weird like make a Euro-trance record, I think it’s a safe bet that their upcoming full length may just be one of the albums of the year.