I haven’t always been the most proud to say that Brand New is my favorite band of all time because, quite honestly, I didn’t feel like they deserved it. I started listening to the band in 2001, in the middle of seventh grade, after a suggestion from my neighbor and then-best friend. He sent me “70×7” and “Mix Tape” and proceeded to change the course of my entire life. Up until that point music had just been a commodity of sorts to me, something to put on in the car to avoid conversations with the parents and to make long drives go that much quicker. What I listened to was prepackaged and sold to me on top 40 stations, and I was okay with that because I didn’t think there was any alternative. But there was. There always was, I just didn’t know about it. I didn’t know how to know about it. Until Brand New.
From here, I could descend into an entire spiel about how Brand New totally fucked my shit up and made me the person I am today, but that’s missing the point of this article. Brand New opened up a door to indie rock that eventually opened the door to shows and live music and all the shit that has since culminated in my entire experience with college radio. Since first downloading “70×7” off of Kazaa in seventh grade, I’ve heard thousands of other bands and seen as many live. I’d been to the same venues countless numbers of times and, each time, seen a different act tear it up in its own individual way. I’d seen the blood, sweat, and tears these artists have poured into their work for a thankless audience, and I’d even shed a bit myself.
With so much else to compare them to, Brand New…fell flat on the delivery. The music was there, but it seemed like the enthusiasm wasn’t. I saw them for the first time in 2004 on the last leg of the last tour for Deja Entendu, and while I’ll always remember that night fondly, there seemed to be a huge disconnect between the band and their audience. I saw them next on their first “reunion” tour, then the first Devil and God tour, etc, and each time the band seemed less and less interested in their own music. After hearing about them doing shit like playing “Degausser” twice at Bamboozle, I was ready to throw in the towel. I didn’t want to support a band that didn’t seem like they gave a shit about the people who had paid $15 a record or $20 a ticket to support them.
Still, each time they came around I went, hoping things would get better. And they did, sort of. The songs got tighter live, the band seemed more energetic, and I got the feeling like maybe, with members approaching their 30s, they still loved playing those old songs they wrote when they were teenagers.
Last night’s show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg cemented that feeling for me. From the opening chords of “Tommy Gun” I could tell there was a renewed passion on stage. And yeah–the band looked fucking happy to be there. Ecstatic, even. It seemed like they finally struck the perfect balance of their old and new sound, actually utilizing Derrick Sherman’s third guitar on the Your Favorite Weapon-era tracks in a way they hadn’t before. Maybe they’ve realized it too, as nearly every song sounded rebuilt from the ground up to incorporate their newest addition rather than just throwing delay pedals on top of everything.
I remember when I saw Jesse’s solo show at the Music Hall last November, he thanked the crowd for putting up with Brand New as they were trying to figure out what kind of band they wanted to be. All at once, it totally made sense; the band wasn’t dicking around with their fans, they’re just trying to create a sound on par with their own favorite bands. Jesse makes no effort to hide his love for the Smiths, Archers of Loaf, and the Jesus Lizard, and maybe to him Deja Entendu isn’t quite his Icky Mettle and Devil and God won’t ever compare to Meat is Murder.
Yet last night, as he closed the show with a solo electric version of “Soco Amaretto Lime,” arguably their most cliched anthem of teenage angst, you could tell that Brand New was finally in a place he was happy with.
Setlist:Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows The Shower Scene Jaws Theme Swimming Flying at Tree Level Mix Tape 70×7 Jude Law and a Semester Abroad Bride Gasoline Sowing Season The Archers’ Bows Have Broken Jesus Christ New song (Paranoid Friend? Lay Her On a Bed?) Guernica Degausser You Won’t Know Play Crack the Sky Soco Amaretto Lime