It is rare for me to venture out of my musical comfort zone and waste my precious late nights on a group that possibly may not make it worth my while. So, when a friend inquired if I‘d be seeing Gaslight Anthem at the Fillmore I was quick to doubt my attendance. I hadn’t heard of them, and thought that the fact they had “anthem” in their name meant they probably had some sort of powerful message that the youth just needed to hear. Figuring they were simply another cookie-cutter alternative band, I listened to a few of their songs with hesitance. It didn’t take me long to realize I had been early to judge, and that the music was exactly what I love: modern punk with a hint of rockabilly and blues thrown in.
The group and I ventured to the Fillmore on dreary Sunday night, extremely early, I might add, to make sure we got a good spot on the floor. Two energy drinks later, the first of four bands took the stage. Waiting through three sets in heels made my anticipation for Gaslight’s entrance quite high. Lead Singer, Brian Fallon, made his way on stage in cuffed jeans, a white t-shirt and tattoos wherever skin was visible. Having no previous knowledge of how their live set panned out, I concluded that if they were horrible performers at least I’d have an attractive man to look at for the next hour or so.
The music began and any negative pretenses I held were immediately quelled. The band not only had high energy, but their music automatically induced movement. The chitchat was kept to minimum and never overpowered the real reason we were there, to hear their songs. Their set ended with a cover of Tom Petty, “American Girl” and the band’s guitarist, Alex Rosamilia, smashing his guitar on the stage a la Pete Townshend of the Who.
While Gaslight Anthem proved to be the reason such a large crowd was drawn, two of the three openers held their own and definitely drew a strong interest from the concertgoers. Frank Turner, the first act of the night, came on with only a guitar and microphone. His sound was slightly eerie, but in a brilliant way. His voice chilled my bones and the power of his songs hit me hard. I would have loved to see him perform with a three-piece band, but the fact that he satisfied with only a guitar was impressive.
The third band of the evening, Murder by Death, was unique by today’s standards. Armed with a bass, guitar, drums, cello and the amazingly unsettling voice of Adam Turla, the band played to a dazed crowd. Turla’s voice itself was enough to quiet the loud group that had gathered. His deep, booming sound resonated from the walls of the large venue, and his solo rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” was astonishing. While their stage presence needed some retooling, the talent and rawness of their music caused me to overlook this minor flaw.
A strong mix of such diverse sounds, the concert proved worth it in the end. Leaving energetic regardless of my looming 6 a.m. wake-up call, I found myself wanting more from all three of the bands. Lucky for me Gaslight’s album holds as much quality as their live show, Murder by Death conveys an even better sound when recorded, and solo opener, Frank Turner, is returning to San Francisco to play smaller venue Slim’s later this year.