Brand New Are Like The UPS Guy, They Always Deliver
Music Hall of Williamsburg
July 11th 2009
Since the release of their breakout record Deja Entendu in 2003, Brand New have mastered the art of keeping a low profile why still becoming one of biggest bands in their scene. This was evidenced by their latest tour, a string of extremely small club dates that sold out instantly, as the majority of their shows do. The one I was lucky enough to get tickets to was a home town show (of sorts) at the Music Hall of Williamsburgh in Brooklyn. The band would not only preview material from their upcoming forth album, but also rip through a set of old favorites and one very pleasant surprise.
The night began with a short set from Robbers, a band from Long Island seemingly no one in the crowd had ever heard of before. I had listened to a few of their songs earlier in the day, and wasn’t impressed with what I heard. Maybe it was because I wasn’t expecting much, or maybe it was because the band was just that good, but I thoroughly enjoyed their performance, as did most of those in the crowd. Unlike the mellow tracks I was expecting, Robbers played fast, technical songs and brought enough energy to grab the attention of even those in the back of the room who had hoped to play around on their iPhones until the headliners took the stage.
The band’s lead singer (Andrew? Matt? Chris? They do a good job of hiding their identities) thrashed around the stage like a wild man, doing his
best Glassjaw-era Daryl Palumbo impression while the rest of the band backed him up nicely. The group said very little throughout the set, instead squeezing as many songs into their half hour on stage as possible. The lack of between stage banter was somewhat surprising considering the band was playing a show close to home in front of a sold-out crowd, but I don’t think anyone was complaining.
After Robbers left the stage to a large round of applause, the wait was on for Brand New. The band had performed only a smattering of shows at colleges and smaller venues since the end of their last US headlining trek in 2007, so most in the crowd had been waiting quite a while to see Jesse Lacey and co. The band took the stage in typical Brand New fashion, looking like they might as well have been ordering an Iced Coffee at Dunkin Donuts or waiting in line for an ATM. That all changed or course as guitarist Vin Accardi strummed the opening cords to “OK, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t.” Only Brand New could open a show with the lines “I am Heaven sent, don’t you dare forget” and still remain completely credible.
The band then moved on to “Sic Transit Gloria, Glory Fades,” followed by “The Quite Things That No One Ever Knows.” Right off the bat, Brand New had played the three biggest songs from their breakout record, and while they sounded great, the crowd seemed hesitant to do anything but sing along.That changed with “The Shower Scene,” a song the band continues to play at almost every show, not because it’s a fan favorite, but because it gets the crowd moving. Things would then slow down slightly with “Jaws Theme Swimming” as the crowed swayed along. For the first part of the show, the band made little attempt to acknowledge the crowd, steamrolling through songs and barely giving anyone in the venue time to catch their breath.
The Long Island quintet has always operated this way, seemingly trying as hard as they can to wear down the crowd by playing their fastest songs first, and then mixing in slower tracks and crowd interaction later. While the set was moving in a seemingly predictable manner, the band threw in a huge curve with the surprise of the night: “Flying at Tree Level.” The Deja Entandu b-side, which they had never played live before this tour, is arguably one of the best songs the band has ever written. While there were plenty in the crowd of 550 who weren’t familiar with it, those who were (such as myself) pretty much flipped out when the opening notes came without any type of introduction. Surprisingly, it sounded as if the band had been playing the song for years. Hopefully, they continues to play the song live after this tour, but I’m not betting on it.
While Brand New once went through a stage where they shied away (that’s putting it mildly) from playing songs from their debut record Your Favorite Weapon, they now seem comfortable with including the best songs from that album on their set lists, and the band showcased this with the next three tracks, “Mixed Tape,” “7×70” and “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad.” Now I attend shows pretty frequently, and I have to say, New York crowds are consistently better than their counterparts in New England, especially when Brand New is involved. This fact shined through during this part of the set, as everyone in attendance sang along as if they had written every single word themselves, giving even the venue’s impressively loud sound system a run for its money.
After the crowd had screamed themselves horse to “Jude Law,” the band would move on to the part of the set where they would slow it down, talking about their upcoming record and debuting two songs from it. Before beginning the song “Bride,” Lacey would say “We have a new record coming out. Some people will try to tell you that’s it a big deal. It’s not, it’s just a new record.” It still amazes me how a band that has seen such great success and has such a rabid underground fan base can either be A) this humble, or B) this good making people believe they are. I’m not quite sure which one it is, but I sure would like to believe it’s the former.
Brand New also played the new song “Gasoline,” which sounded great and even had some in the crowd singing along (what would we do without digital cameras and youtube?). Then the band would finally venture into territory from 2006’s The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me. First would be “Sowing Season (Yeah).” It incited a huge sing (and screen) along (but that was true of just about every song on this night). One aspect of the show I was highly impressed by was the venue itself. Considering the Music Hall of Williamsburg had undergone recent renovations and a name change, I was expecting a shiny new venue complete with obnoxious bouncers, “no photography” rules, metal detectors, and of course more bars than you could count on both hands. To my pleasant surprise, I found the complete opposite. The venue was small and intimate, and while it was clean, it certainly didn’t seem new or sterile. To top it off, the sound was great, there were no searches, no barriers, and no bouncers. There was nothing to get between the crowd and what they come to see.
Next, the band would play two more Devil and God songs, “Archers” and “Jesus Christ,” which both earned huge reactions from the crowd and sounded great. The band followed with what they described as one of the slower songs from their new record, apparently titled “Bed.” While it’s difficult to judge a song based on one listen, it certainly seems like the band’s upcoming record will be another outstanding effortt.
The next three songs would bring things back up to speed, and they included “Geurnica,””Degausser,” and “You Won’t Know.” As is true of most Brand New shows, the latter track was one of the highlights of the night, with Jesse screaming practically the entire song as the rest of the band tore it up behind him. Following this track would be the point where most bands walk of stage and then return for the encore, a trend that is as played-out as any will ever be. Luckily, Jesse remained on stage to finish the show with “Soco Amareto Lime,” and “Play Crack the Sky.” While these two tracks provide the perfect closing note to the band’s first two records, they were also a perfect way to finish off the show, for this is where the crowd truly felt like they were part a part of it, drowning out Lacey’s acoustic strumming.
It was also during these two songs that Lacey let the crowd know just how grateful he was of their support and how happy he was to be (close to) home. I’ve never gotten the idea the band loves being out on the road, and it was obvious they appreciated the support of the hometown crowd, which included many family members and friends. As Lacey completed the set’s final song, the crowd begged for an encore, but thankfully wouldn’t receive one, for night could now end on a very high note. As the fans filed out of the venue, they received flyers announcing a Brand New headlining show along with Glassjaw at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island in November. While this will truly be a homecoming show for the band, it was obvious that they were in their element on this night, providing the lucky500 or so in attendance the type performance they’ve come to expect from one of today’s most consistently spectacular performers.