Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.
Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon lived in Brooklyn for a couple of years but he never really learned his way around. “I think this is the first time we’re playing in Williamsburg,” he said onstage last night at the Music Hall, even though the band has totally played here before. “This place has some of the coolest looking people I’ve ever seen.” It’s a neat trick to make un-hipness seem like the height of style, but Gaslight manage it. Bask in the roar of their unvarnished, red-blooded American rock and roll for a few hours and your taste for artisanal urbane living will wane and you’ll begin fantasizing about a simple life defined by muscle cars and classic rock radio and true love.
“Who needs cool when you have pain, and redemption from it, in rock and roll?”
I arrived in Williamsburg in the mood to forgo cool forever. There’s something about this time of year, when every girl in the city shows up on the L train in the same Urban Outfitters sundress, that inspires a particularly uncomfortable variety of yes-I-too-am-a-hipster self-loathing. I’ve found the best solution to this problem is vodka. So I pushed my way past girls in Frye boots with knee socks and hand-reconstructed vintage Levis denim skirts and headed to the bar. A few refreshingly cheap (yay Brooklyn!) cocktails later and I was feeling prepared to face the throngs of industry folks sure to be in attendance. Last night was Gaslight’s first return to the stage since completing their new album Handwritten (out July 24) and everyone wanted to get a listen to the new tracks, which are awesome, in a live setting. I needn’t have worried, though. Not only was the crowd comprised mostly of the hardest of hardcore fans, people with Fallon’s face tattooed on their bodies, but even the hardboiled rock pros melted as soon as the band launched into the riotous, redemptive “Great Expectations” as their opener.
There may not be enough women in rock and roll, but there would be no rock and roll without women. From to the heartbreak trilogy of Gail, Jane, and Anna in “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” to first wives who leave to starry-eyed girls you spin around on the dancefloor to women whose names you tattoo on your arm to the dresses they wear to the sweet sound of their voices to, literally, Juliet’s pull on Romeo the show felt like a celebration of the glorious agony women inflict upon men. And the crowd — flannel and jeans clad dudes and the occasional girl with bottle-black hair — screamed every word. Who needs cool when you have pain, and redemption from it, in rock and roll?
As I filed out into the warm night air off to the neighborhood watering hole for more post-show cavorting I realized I hadn’t been willingly out this late, or this boozy in a long time. Like everything else, going to rock shows, keeping up with the scene, pretending to be cool, it all becomes a job after a while. And sometimes you need a band of Jersey boys who can’t tell Williamsburg from Park Slope to show up and slap you around a little so you remember that this is supposed to be fun. Thanks for the beating, Gaslight Anthem.
Watch the archived stream of Gaslight Anthem’s show at livestream.com.