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Last night, 12.1.07, I took in once and future Hot Water Music frontguy Chuck Ragan‘s acoustic show at New York’s Knitting Factory. It was a show that prompted the concertgoer to stop occasionally to take in the fact that, “Hey, I’m watching a really great show. It’s cold as hell outside, but what a great thing it is to be alive right here and now.” For emphasis, let’s use the F-word when we say that. “What a great fucking thing it is to be alive right here and now.”
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Whether or not you were a member of the extended family that surrounds Gainesville, Florida sons Hot Water Music, once you have passed through the invisible wall between the recording and the live act, there is no question that you have been tattooed with that affiliation for the rest of your days. Imagine if the Yakuza were positive guys with beards and song, and no sacrifice of fingers, hands, or any limb would ever buy you out of your shared contract with humanity. One show in that extended family is all it takes to ensure that you will stand burning in the corona of that will to make something better until your heart is empty of evil intent. Chuck’s is no country for cynical men who pantomime age before the requisite toll of years.
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The crowd bristled with affirmation, and the songs hit the gut like one of those non-lethal directed sound crowd deterrent cannons, jumping loud out of Chuck’s acoustic guitar with no less ferocity than when pulled from electrified instruments and pummeled forward by a backline. No less ferociously than a solar flare, while we’re at it.
The crowd got to hear a rendition of an old protest song made famous by Billy Bragg, The World Turned Upside Down, a history lesson and a song about people in 1600s England who were trying, even then, to take up shovels and call a spade a spade- to stop paying rent following the English civil war and try start a new society without the aristocracy.
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Opener and Chicago duder Chris McCaughan of Sundowner and The Lawrence Arms (Sundowner was the opening act last night) came back onstage to lend pipes and homage to a cover of Chicago hometown real-keepers Alkaline Trio‘s Bleeder, a song covered on the Alkaline Trio/Hot Water Music Split EP.
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Other than that, he didn’t dip too heavily into Hot Water material, continuously playing original material on the guitar and harmonica with occasional banjo and fiddle backing by John Gant and Chad Smith for a good two hours or so, leaving us at the end with the anticipation of a reunited Hot Water Music show in January to warm us as we were poured post-show back out into the night onto the cold club stoop.