Review: Hell or Highwater brings straight rock 'n' roll to the Constellation Room
It was a night of good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll in the Observatory’s Constellation Room in Santa Ana on Friday night with local rock outfit Hell or Highwater, fronted by Atreyu drummer and vocalist Brandon Saller, headlining.
Opening the show was three-piece rock outfit Diana Gone Wrong, which is currently featured on KROQ’s Locals Only program. Led by the group’s commanding female vocalist, Diana Gone Wrong revved up the members of the crowd, who irresistibly began to nod its heads along to the music.
Beta Wolf, another O.C.-based act, kept heightening the spirit of the room throughout its entire set until lead vocalist Grant Arnow took a spill onto the drum set at the end of its final song. Witnessing these onstage antics was much like an episode of MTV’s “Headbangers Ball,” with all of the exaggerated thrusting and jumping around. Orange Blossom Special took the stage next and brought us back into 2012, but nonetheless still played a lively and solid performance.
Hell or Highwater came on stage to an enthusiastic crowd and was ready to melt faces with “Crash & Burn.” Not even a full song in and the rock-outfit’s vocalist made it clear that he wanted the audience to rock along side him for the rest of the night. “I wanna see all of you put your f***ing hands up and screaming,” the commanding frontman says.
Fortunately for Saller, this audience didn’t need much convincing since almost everyone in the 300-capacity room was already pumping their fists into the air and singing along to the opening track.
The highlight of the night came in the set’s third number, “Hail Mary,” when Saller walked off stage to let guitarists Matt Pauling and Neil Tiemann play insane guitar solos. Not to be outdone, drummer Captain Carl followed with his own stellar solo.
During a rockin’ cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” Saller revealed that this was something it had never done live before. Putting a harder spin on the classic track, one wouldn’t have guessed that it was only a cover.
Closing with “We All Wanna Go Home,” it seemed to contradict the mood of the room – it was as if the band continued to perform well into the night, these fans would have stayed to listen. Saller pulled the crowd together to sing the final chorus of the song and ended the set by high-fiving every fan in the front row.
Set list: "Crash & Burn," "Gimme Love," "Hail Mary," "Find the Time," "The Boxer," "Go Alone," "Come Alive," "Terrorized In the Night" and "We All Wanna Go Home."
Article by Cassie Rossel, for OrangeCounty.com. Photos by Drew A. Kelley, for OrangeCounty.com.