In November of 2021, Hot Water Music announced a stacked lineup for a run of three shows in California to prepare for their 2022 album release. The tour would consist of stops in Los Angeles, Garden Grove, and San Francisco. However, just 10 days before the first show was to go on, all three bands posted to social media that the tour would have to be postponed. This was no surprise at the time due to the rising number of COVID cases. But finally, the time came for this punk rock collective to launch upon California, and I was fortunate enough to be there for the Garden Amp date.
As I’ve gone to shows throughout the years, far too often I was only there for the headlining act. Occasionally, you would also get one good opening band, but these three shows provided three ultra-talented bands that could have headlined any of these dates alone. I showed up early, literally the first person in line, before doors opened to ensure a good spot for San Pedro’s Bad Cop/Bad Cop.
The band strolled onto the stage to Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” as guitarist and vocalist Stacey Dee was singing along. The band opened with the Dee-led “Retrograde,” followed by “Why Change a Thing” sung by guitarist and vocalist, Jennie Cotterill. Bassist and vocalist, Linh Le dedicated their next song, “Done,” to the Supreme Court, expressing outrage at their controversial ruling to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.
Drummer Myra Gallarza was fabulous as always, shining on songs like “Take My Call” and “Perpetual Motion Machine,” both off of the group’s latest release, “The Ride.” The highlight of their set for me was “Certain Kind of Monster,” sung by Le but backed by incredible harmonies from Cotterill and Dee. Dee’s ripping guitar riffs are reminiscent of Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion. The band closed their set with “Womanarchist” and “Wild Me” to a roaring crowd.
The last time Good Riddance played the Garden Amp was in March as the opening act for Pennywise’s “Full Circle” show. Just two months prior to that show, bassist Chuck Platt was struck by a car in his native Santa Cruz. The injuries were significant and extensive, including a right ankle break, left knee injury, broken collarbone, and lacerations to his face and hands. The result was surgery and rehabilitation and when the band played here in March, Platt, trooper that he is, performed in a wheelchair. It was nice to see a healthy, walking Platt in action for tonight’s show. Per usual, drummer Sean Sellers put on a performance worth the price of admission alone.
Widely influential and considered to be one of the best punk drummers from the early ‘90s, during “Credit to His Gender,” my friend Jon pointed out that Sellers’ drumming was so physical and at a breakneck speed that his entire drum riser shook as he played along.
Russ Rankin in his signature black Fred Perry shirt led the band through fan favorites including “Weight of the World.” His vocals particularly shined on “Pisces/Almost Home” as the intro begins with just him and guitarist Luke Pabich for nearly a minute before the entire band joined in and erupted, finishing off the rest of the song to a vicious circle pit. It was the perfect ending as Rankin’s vocals echoed off the open amphitheater, “And it almost feels like coming home….”
Garden Grove, California
July 8, 2022
Although Hot Water Music has taken some hiatuses and even “breakups” in the past, throughout the last three decades the band has remained with the same four core members, which is not usually seen in music. That being said, in 2017 guitarist and singer Chris Wollard announced he would be taking a break from live performances with the band due to health reasons.
This was my first time seeing the band without Wollard and while losing an essential piece of the band such as he is was quite concerning, I felt comfortable knowing that taking his place would be Flatliners front-man, Chris Cresswell. His energy and screaming vocals seems to fit in perfectly with the band.
The thing that strikes me most about Hot Water Music is that all four (five now with Cresswell) members are exceptional musicians that excel at their instruments. Providing the backing rhythm to the band are bassist Jason Black and drummer George Rebelo. Rebelo, much like Cresswell, is actually a full-time member of two active bands, the other being Bouncing Souls.
While I feel like his drumming for the Souls is more punk rock, his role in Hot Water Music is more technical to fit in with the rest of the band and really showcases his skills. Black plays bass with his fingers, which is impressive alone, but his playing is pretty spectacular. Watching him play on “Killing Time” was mind-blowing and you might think it’s a unique example, but you soon realize he’s just that good on every song.
As for the lead vocalists in the band, guitarist Chuck Ragan began the show with “Another Breath.” Ragan’s distinct, coarse voice shouted, “Another step to get ow-ow-out.” Whether playing a solo acoustic show or a full electric performance with Hot Water Music, you can always hear the passion and heart pouring from Ragan’s vocals and you never feel like he’s giving you less than every single ounce of his being when he’s performing.
Hot Water Music itself doesn’t have a lot of flash or big band celebrity and that’s especially true with Ragan who feels like a blue-collar punk rock hero. Hearing him belt out, “I hope you die” on “Habitual,” you truly feel it.
Arguably the toughest role of the night, as I imagine facing the most scrutiny was Cresswell, who was not only filing in for a band member but one of the lead vocalists and an iconic member like Chris Wollard. I’d say as far as lead vocals the night was almost divided evenly between Ragan and Creswell but he proved that he deserves to be here and added a really nice touch to an already established band. His playing on lead guitar for “Habitual” just a few songs in already won me over.
One of the last songs of the night was “Turn the Dial,” which is actually Creswell’s sole contribution to Hot Water Music’s latest album, “Feel the Void,” was easily one of my favorite songs of the night. Although the band did not perform an encore, they closed with the fan favorites “Hearts Stay Full” and “Trusty Chords,” which was a fitting end to an amazing lineup of music. Despite the six-month delay, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, Good Riddance, and Hot Water Music made it more than worthwhile and proved that it was well worth the wait.