Thursday Farewell Tour
Toad’s Place, New Haven CT
December 28th 2011
With the release of 2001’s Full Collapse, Thursday changed the course of alternative music. While the scene they helped create may not be remembered in the most favorable light, the band has consistently challenged musical conventions over the past 11 years, and done so with as much sincerity and integrity as any band could.
That is why it is a shame they have never equaled the success of Full Collapse. With each album, the band’s record sales and popularity fell, despite the fact they continued to earn glowing reviews for both their new releases and live shows. In April of 2011 they debuted their fifth proper full length, No Devolucion. It was a radical, “art rock” departure from their earlier work that quickly became one of the year’s best reviewed albums, even if not one of its best selling.
Short openings slots on tours with My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday in front of largely uninterested crowds followed before the band then announced a proper headlining tour. In late November, they proclaimed the tour would be their last, save for a brief run of Australian dates in 2012. The band cited personal issues for calling it quits, but it can be assumed the difficulties of making a living as a band for so many years had taken its toll.
Their final headlining tour would come to a close with a string of East Coast dates during the holidays, with New Haven, CT being the third to last stop. The band had a history of playing at Toad’s, a venerable rock club close to the campus of Yale University. Their final show there would prove to be a memorable one, as both the band and their fans poured all of their energy into one last performance.
The night began with opening sets from Aficionado and Connecticut’s own Make Do and Mend. I was able to catch a number of songs from the latter, and wasn’t terribly impressed until their closing number, “Night’s the Only Time of Day,” which showed quite a bit of potential.
New Brunswick, NJ trio Screaming Females followed, showcasing their bass-heavy brand of garage rock. In addition to playing a very impressive lead guitar, frontwoman Marissa Paternoster is a vocal powerhouse, and her talents help the act stand out from many of their peers. While the band doesn’t have fantastic stage presence, they sounded great, and their set seemed well received by the large crowd that had already gathered.
The main support act was Philadelphia’s MewithoutYou. The band has earned somewhat of a cult following after touring extensively with the likes of Thursday and Brand New in the past, but has never earned the same type of breakout success as those two bands have. They played a nearly 45 minute set that had many in the crowd moving and singing along. They tended to blend at least a few of their songs together, and took only short breaks between others. While I’m not terribly familiar with their work, I would say they sounded much better than they had the one other time I had seen them.
After a nearly 40 minute wait (which is really pushing it at a show with five bands), Thursday took the stage to the tune of No Develucion’s “Open Quotes.” The crowd immediately surged towards the stage as fists flew through the air. While not one of the band’s better known songs, the intensity the band and the crowd displayed during this number would set the tone for the rest of the night.
Next up was “For the Workforce, Downing”, which is one of the band’s best known songs. The intensity was turned up a few more notches as frontman Geoff Rickly climbed on top of a monitor at the front of the stage, grabbed onto a support beam and leaned as far as he could into the crowd. With no barrier separating the stage from the fans, literally dozens of people made their way on stage during this song alone, forcing the band to take a short break afterward to rearrange all the gear and peddles that had been trampled during the melee.
While Thursday had played 16 songs sets at previous shows, Rickly announced they would be playing longer on this night due to special requests from their road crew, the first of which was “I Am the Killer” from Full Collapse. The band would do a very good job showcasing songs that spanned their career while still featuring six songs from their most recent effort. This was important because this tour would prove to be the only chance they had to play anything from No Develucion as a headlining act.
Throughout the set, the crowd somehow maintained their level of intensity. At times it seemed the only ones getting more of a workout than the fans were the bouncers responsible for corralling crowd surfers as they reached the stage. Even during the set’s more mellow moments, the crowd continued to rage. At one point, Rickly said something along the lines of “We need to play a fast song now because you guys are killing each other during these slow songs.” The band would then launch into “At This Velocity” from 2003’s War All the Time, which was one of the set’s best performances.
For someone who has a reputation for between-song story telling, Rickly’s between song banter was at least somewhat constrained, although he did thank the fans on numerous occasions for sticking with them throughout the years and for their enthusiasm on this night. This enthusiasm would peak during “Cross Out the Eyes,” the song that had helped put the band on the map ten years earlier.
The only full length that Rickly and Co. seemed to ignore was 2008’s “Common Existence”, that is until the schizophrenic “Resuscitation of a Dead Man” was featured as the last song of the set. After a very short break, the New Brunswick crew made their way back on stage and promised a three song encore, which began with the slowed down “Stay True.” The song was dedicated to the night’s first two opening acts, who Rickly credited with reminding him of “why he got into punk rock in the first place.”
After a nod to the holiday season, the band played the opening notes to
“Jet Black New Year” and the crowd swung back into action. The marathon (once again, considering there were five bands) 20 song set would then conclude with fast-paced closer “Turnpike Divides.”
It was now 12:15, and the sun had officially set on Thursday’s final New Haven show. Their powerful performance reminded everyone in attendance why they had grown to love the band in the first place, and why it would be tough to see them go. While they may have ended up a casualty of a flawed record industry and shifting tastes, those in attendance are likely to remember Thursday as the band that poured their souls into every album and every live show, especially their last one.
Picture the scene: It is a Saturday night in early March at the University of New Hampshire, and thousands of excited students make their way across campus to a crowded arena. As the students squeeze their way into the building, they search for spots close to the action. They soon witness a thrilling performance featuring enough energy, emotion, and adrenaline to fill an entire semester. They leave exhausted and horse from screaming at the tops of their lungs. Is the UNH basketball team looking to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament? Nope. Is the Wildcats hockey team wrapping up another Hockey East title? Close, but wrong again. This night did not belong to any of the UNH athletic teams, but to Long Island cult favorites Brand New. The band, who had played only a handful of shows since completing a major US tour with Thrice over a year earlier, was in the middle of a brief run of East Coast college shows. Their devoted fans had obviously not forgotten about them, for UNH’s sold-out Lundholm Gymnasium was jam packed on this night, which began with a 45 minute set from Philadelphia’s mewithoutYou.
While there are some who consider mewithoutYou one of today’s best and
most original acts, I can’t say I would agree. Aaron Weiss’s scratchy vocal delivery is certainly an acquired taste, and not one I’ve gotten around to acquiring just yet. Few, if anyone in the crowd was familiar with the band, and some voiced their displeasure, only to be reprimanded by Weiss, who called out one of the hecklers towards the front of the stage in the middle of the set. After playing what was apparently a mix of old and new songs , mewithYou left the stage to a polite round of applause, and anticipation began to build for the headliners, as even more fans inched their way towards the front.
Brand New frontman Jesse Lacey took the stage to a deafening roar, and to almost everyone’s surprise, began the show with “Mixtape,” a song from the band’s 2001 debut. Lacey was joined by the entire band mid song, and they then transitioned into “The Quiet Things that No One Every Knows” and “Sic Transit Gloria.” If this were a heavy weight title fight, Brand New would obviously be going for the early knock out, as the crowd was whipped into a near-violent frenzy. Those at the front of the stage were crushed toward the barriers, while those standing behind found themselves getting pulled up off the ground by other fans on numerous occasions. For the start of a Brand New show, this is pretty much par for the course. The band would slow it down slightly and allow the crowd to catch its breath with”Jaws Theme Swimming,” before cranking up the energy once again with “The Archers Bows Have Broken.”
As is typical of most Brand New shows, Jesse screamed and flailed as if every song was the last he would ever sing, and the crowd ate it up. The sound inside the gym wasn’t perfect and could have been louder, but there’s only so much you can expect from a college show, and everything else about the production was spot on. Despite the fact that Lacey said little in between songs and most of it was inaudible, the band still seemed to be enjoying themselves. As the set progressed, Brand New ventured into more material from their most recent effort, 2006’s The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, and they also included a new song known as “Bride” which they have been playing live for some time. The set came to a close with “You Won’t Know,” during which lead guitarist Vin Accardi tossed his instrument at least ten feet over his head and caught it as if grabbing the handle of an ax.
After a very short time off stage, the band would return to another round of deafening cheers. To the even greater delight of those in attendance, they broke into “70 x 7,” and then closed the show with an acoustic performance of “Play Crack the Sky.” The huge crowd left beyond satisfied with what they had witnessed, and while Brand New wasn’t going to get to hang any championship banners from the rafters, they had come through with another world-class performance. Now if only the hockey team could play that well on a consistent basis, UNH would be all set.
The Quiet Things that No One Ever Knows
Sic Transit Gloria
Jaws Theme Swimming
The Archers Bows Have Broken
No Seatbelt Song
OK I Believe You, But MY Tommy Gun Don’t
You Won’t Know
70 X 7
Play Crack The Sky