H2O Can’t Forget Their Roots For 20 Year Anniversary Shows

May 7, 8, 9, 2015
St. Vitus Bar- Brooklyn, NY

      Hardcore punk band H2O has been celebrating 20 years of making music. Soundcheck411 was able to catch a few of their 20-year anniversary shows in the city that the band was formed in back in 1994. Fans crammed into St.Vitus’s tiny back room for five consecutive days of shows, four of which were sold out.
First come first serve tickets were available at the venue once the shows were announced a few months ago. This was good news for New Yorkers who could easily get there, but others had to wait until tickets were sold online. The first three shows were on May 6h, 7th, and 8th, and a fourth Mother’s Day matinee show was added shortly after. On May 7th, the band announced a fifth show had been added on May 9th by popular demand. Returning to their roots in NYC, the shows were special for the band and fans alike. While most of the crowds consisted of New Yorkers, many people had also driven from out of state to see the band.
Over the course of their career, H2O has released six studio albums and is currently working on a new album to be released in September. The band’s lyrics are laced with themes of positivity, individuality, and respect for one’s self as well as others. Lead singer Toby Morse is vegan and straightedge, lending both ideals to the lyrics he writes. Other band members include Rusty Pistachio on guitar, Adam Blake on bass, Todd Friend on drums, and Colin McGinniss on guitar. Todd Morse was the long time guitar player who McGinniss has replaced, as Morse has been playing with The Offspring as of late. Two albums were played in their entirety on each of the first three nights, but like many anniversary shows, it was a surprise which albums would be played on which nights. Morse admitted during one show that he had to steal the idea from friend Matt Skiba, who has been performing “Past Live”, shows with Alkaline Trio.
DSC_2283Thursday night, H2O’s self-titled debut album was played along with Nothing to Prove. Friday’s concertgoers heard Faster Than the World and Thicker than Water. Go, and a mix of songs were played Friday night. As originally expected, the albums weren’t actually played in their entirety, though most of the tracks were. The band also threw in a few cover songs and popular songs from other albums in addition to those being played. Saturday was something special for fans. Announced on frontman Toby Morse’s Instagram page, it was an all request set list. Fans were to request their songs on Instagram to be played at the Saturday matinee show. During the show, many fans yelled out song titles, and the band played most of the requests called out.
Thursday night’s show had a lot going on, as is typical at an H2O show. A little ways into the set, a girl in the front row asked guitarist Rusty Pistachio if he needed a break, to which he handed the girl his guitar. She declined, but minutes later, he did so again, and she took him up on his offer. She played Guilty by Association with the band, not missing a beat. Pistachio stuck to backup vocals while she took over.
Before a song off of Thicker than Water, Morse stated it was his wife’s favorite song, and then got the idea to call her before playing it, since it would likely be the last time the band would. Morse then called her and put the microphone to the phone’s speaker so she could say hi to the crowd. He let her listen in as they played her husband’s favorite track. A friend on stage recorded the performance for her.
Before Helpless Not Hopeless off the album Faster Than the World, Morse studied the song lyrics, as he didn’t remember them. He flipped through printed out sheets of lyrics and shook his head as if to say he couldn’t do it, but gave it a try regardless. Once the drumbeat began and the first words were supposed to come, Morse just shook his head at the crowd and signaled for everyone to stop playing. The fans, however, continued singing every word for him and the music kept going. Morse pointed the microphone at the crowd and gestured for fans to come up on stage and sing. Two girls jumped up and sang part of the song for him, along with the crowd, as he moved the microphone back and forth to each of them.
On the third night, the energy was lacking from the night before. Morse asked the crowd multiple times if they were awake and said that the last two nights were epic. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but crowd surfing and stage diving were almost absent. It was a completely different vibe from the night before for whatever reason. There were still some fun surprises for fans as three of them were brought onto the stage during different songs to play guitar. Paul Delaney, bassist of Kill Your Idols also took over for a while. Morse unwrapped one of the microphone wires from a stand and handed it to a fan he was inviting up to sing a Minor Threat cover with them.
Saturday’s show brought the energy again. Only announced two days prior, it was the only show that didn’t sell out, but still drew a decent crowd. For a smaller group, the commotion in the crowd surpassed that of Friday night. Fans were throwing themselves on and off the stage at a rate that was alarming at some points. Guilty by Association, Family Tree, and What Happened? encouraged the most excitement in fans. During Guilty by Association, Bryan Mitts” Daniels of Madball took over Blake’s bass and one other person took over Colin McGinniss’s guitar. Blake took over Pistachio’s guitar, Pistachio sung vocals, and McGinniss sang a portion of the song. Needless to say, it was a wild few minutes. Amplifiers were being pushed toward the back of the stage by unruly fans and there was little room for any more people to fit on the tiny platform. Regardless, fans climbed atop and flew off again into the crowd.
It’s impossible to squeeze twenty years of hardcore into five days. H2O brings the passion to their performance every time, and hearing some of the same songs each night was like hearing them for the very first time. While H2O usually doesn’t tour regularly these days, they’re always popping up here and there for a few shows. Follow them on social media to see where they’ll be playing next, and look out for their new album in September.
Review by: Ashley Rodriguez