MANHATTAN, NY—On July 27 at Irving Plaza, the venue guitarist/vocalist Brian Fallon referred to on stage as punk rock’s Madison Square Garden came alive with a show fully curated by Fallon himself that included his good bud, Dave Hause, as well as Red Bull Sound Select bands Frances & The Foundation and The Scandals.
The night started before the first chord was played, as Gaslight Anthem fans filtered into Irving Plaza. The show was free, but the entire audience had been personally invited based on their support of the bands on social media in weeks leading up the show. Clearly everyone in the building was into the music and the event.
When Frances & The Foundation, of Nashville, plugged in, it wasn’t the first time Samantha Cutler and Matt Simms had played New York City. Both natives of Colorado Springs, they had sang in the Colorado Springs Children’s Coral. That had been a very different performance, offered Cutler.
Her band had just impressed the New York crowd with their ‘90s-inspired alt rock and sweet harmonizing, and Cutler had rushed over to man the merch table. After playing a handful of offerings from their new self-titled EP, released the same day of the show, a succession of new fans lined up to buy t-shirts and digital download cards as well as meet Cutler.
“Tonight definitely made me realize that it all can actually happen for our band,” Cutler explained. “It reenergized me and my faith in doing this.”
While she fielded compliments from new friends, The Scandals, of Bayonne, New Jersey, prepared to bring their working-class punk to the stage. There was even one ‘Bayonne Bombers’ t-shirt in the house, indicating that many of their fans had come from across the river.
Frontman Jared Hart didn’t stop working all day. He had spent part of the afternoon sitting in the band’s truck so as not to get a ticket in the one-hour-limit parking spot they’d found near the venue until the restriction lifted in the evening. There’s no money for NYC parking garages on a punk budget. They were just happy to have scored a dozen free burritos down the street.
And when they took the stage, they delivered a succession of fast, anthemic punk haymakers at the crowd that started with “Allnighters” and included “Jersey Sweep.” It was a reminder of where this music came from. In an age where many of their generation are consumed with new looks or trying to use punk until they are big enough to “transcend” it, they have no delusions about who they are.
During The Scandals’ encore, the blistering “Avalanche,” Hart abandoned his axe and leapt into the crowd for a raucous sing-along. “I’m coming back to a place that I hold dear, back where my family and friends are near… I’m coming baaaack.” Good times.
Next came Dave Hause, who may have left a hole in the floorboards, pounding his foot into the Irving Plaza stage to the delight of the crowd. Looking on from backstage, The Gaslight Anthem’s gifted guitarist Alex Rosamilia observed, “The kids love Hause.”
Rarely is one man with an acoustic guitar able to follow up a blistering punk band. But Hause seems to draw from the same inspiration he had for The Loved Ones and the result is obvious, as he played old favs and gave a taste of his new record due out in October.
“When Gaslight had the opportunity (more shows, playing bigger venues), Brian said that he loved our band and later my solo stuff. And they wanted to take me on tour with them. They’re doing it right as far as bringing up other acts. Now that they are where they want to live as a band, they’re willing to honor that,” explained Hause.
And that was what the show was all about: a band that enjoys a certain level of success offering a hand to artists who are working hard and offering them a little exposure.
The Gaslight Anthem showed why they’ve achieved the international acclaim that they have. Driving themselves around the country in a van with The Loved Ones was really only five years ago. Though the growth through The ’59 Sound, American Slang and last summer’s Handwritten makes that old tour bus and basement shows feel like ages ago, the growth has been steady and organic. Fallon, Alex Levine, Rosamilia, Horowitz and now second guitar, Ian Perkins, gave the crowd a little bit of everything: a few driving efforts from Sink Or Swim, fan-favorite “The ’59 Sound,” more recent bluesy songs, and a good sampling from Handwritten from “Mae” to “45.”
The band’s more recent shows in New York City have sold out to crowds of 4,000 people. But as opposed to those festival-type gigs, this was a chance to share a night in a much tighter setting. With “Backseat” and “1930” in the encore, the entire place was moving. They ended the show by graciously meeting with fans.
“We haven’t played a venue this size in years,” reflected Fallon gazing across the empty floor of Irving Plaza as the night wound down. “This was really fun.”