Concert review: Hell or Highwater rocks Detroit Bar

"God save rock and roll!" a female fan in the crowd shouted.

And, some would argue, that's just what Hell or Highwater did Wednesday night at the Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa.

The intimate venue filled with the roars of rock fans as the Orange County band played its set, consisting of songs from its debut album, "Begin Again," released in August 2011.

As the band members approached the stage, they activated fog machines. While this is usually a successful stage effect, the fog became distracting and was ultimately unnecessary because of the venue's size.

However, as soon as the band began playing, all diversions vanished and the fans became immersed in the music.

Kicking off with "Gimme Love," the group showed off somewhat of a grungy, pop and southern hard rock flair. Brandon Saller provided clean vocals and a sound similar to rock outfits Breaking Benjamin or Three Days Grace.

This was something that fans of Saller may not have expected from him. His previous band, Atreyu, which announced an indefinite hiatus last year, possessed more of a metalcore sound and included screams.

Still, Saller proved that he was as captivating as he was when he played drums and co-led vocals for Atreyu, which toured with popular acts such as Linkin Park and Avenged Sevenfold. As fans in the first row grabbed at him, Saller would grab back and serenade.

When he announced the next song, "Terrorized in the Night," the crowd jumped with the band. Saller said the band was working on a music video for the song and would soon release it. This amped the crowd even more.

Hell or Highwater also included its own hard rock touch to Simon & Garfunkel's 1968 song, "The Boxer."

Hell or Highwater's originality in the cover was done so successfully because, unlike many other bands' attempts at covers, their version didn't sound like an exact replica. While the original version was played soft and folksy, Hell or Highwater added bass grooves and heavy guitars to give the song more of a modern feel.

The band also performed a mellower version of their song "Rocky Water's Edge," which Saller noted they had never performed live before. The song was stripped down to Saller's voice and a guitar, which was appropriate for its romantic theme.

"Through all of this you hung around to see this through / It's obvious you were made for me and me for you," Saller sang, accompanied by nearly everyone in attendance.

Toward the end of the song, Saller stopped and encouraged the crowd to sing the song if they knew it. Just like that, the venue filled with the voices of fans.

While Hell or Highwater included touching moments in the set, the band also made sure that everyone was having a good time. Saller frequently referred to alcohol.

"Does everyone here have a drink?" Saller asked the crowd. "Joey [Bradford, bass] could use a beer. Someone get him a beer."

A fan quickly responded and gave Bradford what he requested.

When Hell or Highwater played "Hail Mary," the crowd followed Saller as he commanded them to wave their hands in the air. Saller then asked them to "power bomb into a fist," similar to an exaggerated fist pump.

"It's a good time anywhere, anytime," he said.

Hell or Highwater concluded with "We All Wanna Go Home." Despite many attendees singing along, it could be assumed that many did not really want to go home due to the band's entertaining set.

For more information about Hell or Highwater and to view upcoming tour dates, visit

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