Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brand New Live at the Avalon, Boston, MA, April 24th 2007

The minute lead singer Jesse Lacey stepped out to the microphone to accompany the opener, Manchester Orchestra, any suspicions that Brand New is a tragedy factory riding the current trend of sin surplussed musicians were banished from the stage. He was unshaven, donning a dirty white t-shirt and a black beanie that seemed the attire of a crazy hobo more than a hipster or a rock star. Jesse’s words few and his actions subtle, seeming to suggest he was possessed likewise. It almost appeared as if he hadn’t noticed the crowd of adoring fans, but thought he was back in a basement on Long Island playing music for and with friends. His guitar and voice came from another world inside his own head, the torture within his lyrics immediately legitimized. At one point Jesse lay down on an overturned drum, supine and playing guitar for the ceiling.

Jesse became an additional member of the Orchestra and the Goddamn Band for Kevin Devine, but it was hardly the Jesse Lacey show. Each band brought their own unique personalities to the stage, especially evident during Devine’s set when he broke out in a freestyle jam, culminating in a break dancing, to a chant of Yankee’s suck for which Jesse, a New York native, was playing guitar. During both opening sets, Lacey crept behind microphones and guitars like a bashful shadow without introduction, despite the applause, reminding the audience what band was really onstage.

The tone for all of Brand New’s set was established before they even came onstage with a single, distorted note before breaking into ‘Okay, I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t.’ Guitarist Vinnie Accardi, bassist Garret Tierney, drummer Brian Lain, and the fresh face of Derrick Sherman (an extra guitarist recently added to aid live shows) seemed equally possessed by the music and displayed the same type of humble showmanship as Jesse, devoid of flashy antics. The emotions were so genuine it appeared that perhaps, as the title of their new record suggests, the devil and God really were fighting an epic battle within each musician. The whole set had a punk rock and grunge feel, with unique soloing and jams in the middle of songs lead by a soul piercing noise and feedback. At the Bridge of ‘Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades,’ Jesse screamed the hook into the pickup of his guitar with unbelievably convincing fury. During ‘Play Crack the Sky,’ the lead singer of Manchester Orchestra provided backing vocals and many others from both opening bands appeared throughout the set, blurring the lines between band and collective.

The set was split in two. The first half was all songs from Deja Entendu with ‘The Shower Scene’ and ‘The No Seatbelt Song’ from Your Favorite Weapon. Sadly a fan favorite, ‘The Quiet Things that No One Ever Knows’ was missing from the line up. Forty-five minutes into the set left fans questioning if they were going to play anything at all from the new record. It was possible that the band disliked the new songs calling to mind an interview posted on their website in which Lacey stated “our creative decisions are no longer ours to be made alone for ourselves. We are only a small part, now, of a much larger machine that has made us completely dependent on it… but which, for all intents and purposes, can function perfectly well without us.” However, an hour into the show Lacey stepped up to the mic and said ‘we’re just getting started.’ After that they bled into ‘Sowing Season (Yeah),’ the first single off their new record.

The defining moment of Lacey’s anguish came between songs, while he was tuning. A girl from the back of the crowd shouted ‘Jesse, you’re so hot!’ He gave a backward smirk and nodded his head in reluctance to the identity of a sex symbol feigning emotional love for physical passion that he is trying to escape as outlined in ‘Okay,’ ‘Me Vs. Maradona Vs. Elvis,’ and several other songs. The girl continued to shout and someone came to Jesse’s rescue by yelling ‘shut the fuck up!’ which received a loud ovation from everyone in the crowd. This moment coupled with the following ‘Jesus Christ’ made clear the progression of Brand New and Jesse’s lyrics. Deja Entendu confessed his sins and The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me is his attempt at redemption.

The set ended unconventionally with a soul sucking rendition of ‘Welcome to Bangkok,’ an instrumental song. Every single member of every band came onstage and played a guitar, beat a drum of cymbal, or jammed on a keyboard. It was the climax of Lacey’s agony as he screamed into the pickup and then beat his guitar against his forehead several times. The band refrained from cliché instrument smashing and Jesse proceeded to beat a cymbal mercilessly, at times missing it and knocking it over. People slowly filtered offstage and a few remained, beating their kits so badly that the cymbals were mangled and the drums torn. As the guitars rang out and the stage was emptied the lights went down and that was it. No encore.

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