Brand New is all about the mystery. They keep their fans occupied between sparse live appearances by allowing rumors of demos locked in light towers to stir and elicit 1,000+ comments on popular music news sites by including lyric sheets to unreleased tracks along with purchases of tour merch. They also rarely allow photographers at their shows, which is why you won’t see any photographic evidence of what I’m about to describe.
And hard as I try to deny it, the marketing clearly has its effects on me, as even after logging so many Brand New shows in the early 2000s I was still just as excited for the band’s first Vegas show in about 7 years as the crowd that was seemingly made up by first time viewers. It also doesn’t hurt that they release some of the best music in the biz, constantly challenging themselves and their listeners by not sticking to one sound for too long.
Someone not already converted would probably scratch their head at the sheer pandemonium that erupted from the audience as the four guys walked out on stage and launched into “Mene,” the band’s first new track since Daisy was released 6 years ago. The song is highly reminiscent of latter day Nirvana with its grungy riffs, and with a stage setup that borrowed its color scheme from the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video, I have to think that was intentional.
That song segues so perfectly into Daisy’s “Sink,” that I’m just going to go ahead and start a rumor that they were written at the same time (or, at least, that the newer track is a spiritual prequel). “Sink” is so full of passion, with that similar soft/loud dynamic that Nirvana perfected, even those fans that didn’t feel that album as much were pumping fists in the air when frontman Jesse Lacey screamed “You want to sink, so I’m gonna let you.” The band kept in a Daisy mood going right into “Gasoline” without hesitation – and the use of dual percussionists really impressed.
Many bands from Brand New’s era that experienced the same growth in style quickly abandoned their older material (Thrice comes to mind) so I have to give Brand New credit for including songs from all 4 studio albums. The band’s career started with a little pop punk gem called Your Favorite Weapon and that album was represented this time by “Mix Tape,” a song about growing up and growing apart. It was a clear crowd favorite, with fan voices drowning out Lacey’s during the song’s closing repeated refrain of “Yeah, but I wish you were my shadow.”
Of course, it’s no surprise that tracks from the band’s gold-selling Deja Entendu received the biggest reaction of the night. Really, the reaction was crazy enough that I think the venue is still feeling the reverberations of thousands of Brand New fans screaming “Die young and save yourself” from “Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades” or “I just wanna believe, in us” from one of my favorite songs ever, “Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t.” (I like Home Alone too, Jesse! Let’s be friends) Even the more low-key “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light” with its delicate, acoustic guitar strums had fans crowd surfing towards the band’s rose-covered mic stands.
But for me, the highlight (in addition to the awesome lighting – kudos light guy!) was finally hearing “Missing You” live. The song, formerly known as “Untitled #4” from the Fight Off Your Demons demos, reaches the perfect balance between the pop punk goodness of Your Favorite Weapon and the more alt rock leanings of Deja. Devil and God jams “You Won’t Know” and “Milestone” also received huge reactions – from me, since those songs rule. (okay, so there were a few more people singing along up front, but it should have been everyone!)
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all roses. The combination of an overpacked venue, fans that aren’t well versed in concert etiquette, and some being a bit too inebriated, resulted in more fights at this one gig than the past five years of gigs I’ve attended combined. To their credit and from my vantage point, Brooklyn Bowl security did their best to stop fights as they happened. But still, it bums me out to know a handful of meatheads likely ruined an awesome live performance for some fans.
Things were fortunately a bit less hostile during the opening sets. In direct support on this tour and also following Brand New to Coachella was Circa Survive, a band I’m admittedly pretty unfamiliar with. Apparently I’m the only one – because the Brooklyn Bowl floor was sardine can packed all the way to the back. And yet, people still managed to get their hands together in thunderous applause when frontman Anthony Green and crew took the stage. The band kicked things off with Descensus track “Child of The Desert,” fitting for where they were playing, and right from the start I couldn’t help but get sucked in by the band’s enthusiasm.
I particularly enjoyed Green hoisting the mic stand up and brandishing it around like it was Mjolnir during “Schema.” An energetic frontman is always appreciated and on top of that, few vocalists have the vocal range to pull off what Green does live. You could say I was impressed 360. The whole crowd was clapping along to the beat on “In Fear And Faith” from major label debut Juturnaand there was some nice call and response action later in the set. The band obviously loves their fans, as they took multiple breaks between melodic, post-rock tunes to let us know how grateful they were to be playing for us.
Opening the show was The Weaks, a punk-infused power pop band from Philadelphia. Playing before bands with fan bases as rabid as Brand New and Circa Survive meant that The Weaks weren’t rocking out to an empty room like the fate that befalls many support acts. Like people who only see the awesome Bob’s Burgers because it’s on before The Simpsons, Brand New fans who got to the show early were in for a treat. And in this case, it was sweet harmonies and Weezer-style guitar solos.
In fact, their whole set reminded me a lot of vintage Weezer-meets-Dinosaur-Jr-meets-Guilt Show-era-The-Get-Up-Kids and I can think of few bands better to be compared to. Their set included choice cuts from EP The World Is A Terrible Place & I Hate Myself And Want To Die and new full length Bad Year and though most of the crowd was pretty sedate during their set (or worse, talking over it) I did see a few more toes than just mine tapping to tracks like wistful “Nevermind.”
Between songs, the band pointed out how “sick” the desert is, as they’re used to a more lush, tree filled landscape. Hopefully they liked their trip enough to return sooner rather than later, maybe with a co-headlining gig downtown with Tony Molina? (Call me, guys! Let’s set this up.)
Photos by Tylor Thuirer | https://www.flickr.com/photos/thuirermedia/
Brand New Setlist:
You Won’t Know
Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades
I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light
The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows
Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t
At the Bottom
Sealed to Me
Circa Survive Setlist:
Child of the Desert
Holding Someone’s Hair Back
In the Morning and Amazing…
Only the Sun
In Fear and Faith
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