Broadway Calls kicked off the night with just the kind of pop punk the crowd was looking for. Sounding very much like their album live, the band were actually more impressive once they got a little tired. Scruffy, sweaty Midwestern punk works for them. By the time they were half way through, the energy was oozing.
Jesse Malin was the least interesting act of the night. While you could appreciate his advocacy for optimism, his entire set was filled with pretension and rock star antics that were hard to ignore.
An ingenious fusion of Alkaline Trio and Johnny Cash, Murder By Death took the best elements of gothic rock, alt-country and Midwestern rockabilly and turned them into a dynamically fresh stage show. Vocalist/guitarist Adam Turla is a small man with a booming voice, accompanied by an extremely talented band that includes the petite Sarah Balliet on the electric cello and keys. Despite Gaslight Anthem being the headliner, this was likely the set that many in the crowd couldn't stop talking about.
That said, as soon as Gaslight Anthem took the stage, the Kool Haus came alive. The NJ pop/rock/soul-punkers kicked into "High Lonesome," stimulating the crowd with the cigarette swagger that comes with their smoky brand of rock'n'roll. So many different elements and influences in this band became even more striking live, from their rugged classic rock, to amped up punk rock, to smooth, tasty blues, making this a group to get lost in.
They played an impressively long set, including highlights "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" and "The '59 Sound," which they played surprisingly early. Vocalist/guitarist Brian Fallon is reminiscent of a young Bryan Adams, had Adams grown up in New Jersey and experienced a love affair with leather jackets, Bruce Springsteen and Joey Ramone. The Kool Haus was packed and rowdy for this set, igniting a great mutual love of solid rock'n'roll.