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H20 

With Stretch Arm Strong and With Honor. Friday, January 21, at the Agora Theatre.

December 30, 2004, marked the 10th anniversary of H20's first show. It's an impressive milestone, especially for a group that's fronted by a former roadie and hasn't released an album in more than three years.

Despite its recent hiatus from the recording studio, H20 still draws decent crowds -- probably a karmic reward for being the World's Nicest Heavy Band (non-Christian division). Its tattooed, tough-looking members play only all-ages shows and sign on for philanthropic outings, such as the current PETA-sponsored "Hardcore Against Fur" tour. (It's never an inspired idea to wear a mink coat to a punk show, but this is an especially appropriate occasion to leave it on the rack.)

H20's songs are as cuddly as high-velocity New York hardcore gets, with sing-along choruses that feel like group hugs. Singer Toby Morse lugged amps for Sick of It All for several years, apparently absorbing none of that group's aggressive, bitter approach during his tour of duty. Live, this charismatic crew wins converts with its covers, which range from city-specific shout-outs (Temple of the Dog in Seattle) to gleeful, genre-jumping makeovers (Madonna's "Like a Prayer."). H20 likes to combine these elements whenever possible, which means a lively Bone Thugs reading is more likely than a Craw tune.

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