It’s becoming increasingly easy to pigeonhole artists in the ever-expanding “former-band-frontman-turned-solo-songwriter” movement, particularly in the punk scene and its various offshoots. To think that all artists in that category are interchangeable, however, is not only lazy pseudo-journalism, but an error of Herculean proportions. Nowhere is that more apparent than on Rocky Votolato‘s co-headlining tour with Dave Hause, currently crisscrossing the lower 48 with opening support from Chris Farren. The evening proves to be a powerful exercises in the differences in style and nuance that the three troubadours take to get through to, and with, their respective audiences.
Farren kicked off the Boston stop of the marathon six-week tour a scant fifteen minutes after doors opened at Allston’s Great Scott as the sold-out crowd was still filling in. The luxuriously-haired Floridian has built himself a rather rabid, vocal fanbase through his Fake Problems career, as well as through his own solo work and his playing Batman to Jeff Rosenstock’s Robin (or is it the other way around) in Antarctigo Vespucci. His half-hour set on this evening culled from the catalogs of all three projects inciting not only vocal assistance from the crowd but from the world’s loudest restroom hand dryer on more than one occasion. (Seriously, if you’ve ever been to Great Scott, what the hell is up with the hand dryer and how has it not opened a rift in the space/time continuum?) Even if you’re not familiar with Farren’s volume of work, as was maybe the case for half of the crowd on this particular night, the punk rock celebrity’s wit and self-deferential sense of humor have a way of disarming the concert-goer, pulling you in to his circle.
Hause rode shotgun on this particular night of the co-headlining tour. Hause made mention of the stylistic differences between himself and Votolato in a recent interview with Philly’s WXPN, and hit the proverbial nail on the head in doing so. Hause’s East Coast, blue collar, punk rock roots shine through loud and clear in his newer career as a solo artist. Ever the dynamic frontman, even when performing alone or accompanied only by his fifteen-years-younger brother, Tim, as he has been in most solo shows over the last couple years, Hause’s dynamic stage personae grabs the listener by the throat and pulls your attention toward stage center. The current tour marks the end of the road for Devour, Hause’s stellar, critically-acclaimed 2013 Rise Records release. Admittedly performing this run alcohol-free for the first time that he can remember, Hause has started teasing new, still-unnamed material on this tour, with the new material demonstrating that Hause has not only moved on from Devour but from the seemingly heavy time period that prompted its writing and recording. Hause seems to be in a lighter, more jovial mood this time through, telling a good natured (though also self-deferential) story in which his brother was mistaken for his son at a local falafel shop earlier in the evening. On their last time through Boston, the younger Hause was just starting out in his role as accompaniment for his older brother. Tim has made strides in both performance and presence over the last eighteen months, and Dave let his younger brother’s guitar stylings take center-stage on more than one occasion.
Rocky Votolato assumed the show-closer’s role on this particular evening (the duo are switching off, though not necessarily alternating, headlining duties). Votolato has settled in nicely to a more traditional independent “singer-songwriter” role. His voice and guitar work are somewhat more delicate, though no less poignant or powerful, than Hause’s, opting more to compel the show-goer to listen rather than forcing you to do so. Armed with his road-worn yet impeccable-sounding 1964 Guild acoustic, performed an hour-long set that wove its way through the bulk of his eight-album solo career. Votolato is currently touring in support of April’s Hospital Handshakes (No Sleep Records), an album that, in many ways, is Votolato’s first anthemic-sounding rock record. When stripped down, many of the songs (most notably the title track and album-opener “Boxcutter”) seem more haunting on an emotional level than their traditional arrangements, and thus fit nicely into the Votolato live, solo canon. While they’d still make for a stellar full-band show, the solo acoustic take made for a special, splendid performance.