Made my way to The Beacham this past Saturday to catch Frightened Rabbit. They are everything as advertised and then some. Hutchison was extremely taciturn but unfailingly polite and very workmanlike about the entire thing. Highlights from the set were many but few performances will ever top their rendition of "Acts of Man." It was in many ways otherworldly and jaw-dropping. I am still left speechless and awestruck when thinking back on how truly magnetic the performance was. Ditto to encore closer "The Loneliness and the Scream."
Equally as impressive as Frightened Rabbit, was Brooklyn's Augustines. Frontman Billy McCarthy is an absolute born performer and his natural charisma, charm and inherent confidence was apparent from the get-go. Highlights from the set included the whiskey-soaked piano-ballad "City of Brotherly Love," and the raucous "Book of James." The fiery three piece plays a blend of sweaty, ragged rock not unlike The Hold Steady, The Gaslight Anthem and Bruce Springsteen. While they've endured four name changes and their career has yet to skyrocket, their 45-minute set was an absolute head-turner and a surefire eye opener. If AP.net kids want a band to watch out for come 2014, it most certainly is Augustines.
Last summer, revered music zine Paste wrote an article featuring the 10 Best Bands in the state of Florida. While that article is a fair representation of some of the best talent in the Sunshine State, there was one giant and glaring omission: Jacksonville Beach's Flagship Romance. A boy-girl duo in the vein of The Civil Wars, Delta Rae and Lady Antebellum, their dual harmonies and tender slices of indie folk remain make them arguably one of the most exciting under-the-radar musical acts in not just Florida but the entire nation.
Having already supported chart-toppers such as the Goo Goo Dolls and Mumford and Sons, to name a few, the supremely polished duo is more than on their way. Seen this past Saturday at Orlando's The Social while opening for Caitlin Crosby and Jesse Ruben, they performed what was easily the best set of the night. Whether it was the deeply impacting love song "My Jolene" or the timeless melancholy of "Games of Sorrow," there was a palpable sense that Flagship Romance are more than worthy of wider stages and greater acclaim.
On the impassioned foot-stomper "Strange Thing" and the leave-it-all-on-the-table slow-burner "Harvest," dual vocalists Jordyn Jackson and Shawn Fisher made the most of their all-too-brief set. Every concert has a statement moment and their ephemeral 30-minute set was a venerable call to arms for all those in the crowd. Flagship Romance will be something, that much is certain, how and when they get there still remains to be seen.
Though Flagship Romance was the inarguable showstopper, the remainder of the bill wasn't exactly a dud. Orlando native Matthew Fowler began the evening playing a confident and deft set of Damien Rice-inspired acoustic folk. Though he was visibly nervous and seemed a bit overwhelmed by the venue, his songs certainly made up for it. Be it the stripped--down version of The Cranberries ubiquitous 90s hit "Linger" or the placid fragility of "Beginners," Fowler was equal parts ruminative, introspective and intimate. His set's finest moment was the rising "Wear," a song which plays off both his harmonica playing and his soaring voice.
Co-headliner Caitlin Crosby, a LA native, was arguably the Robin to Flagship Romance's Batman. Her warm, confident and wholly accessible set vacillated gorgeously between melancholia and effervescence. Tackling dark themes such as human trafficking, drug use and narcissism, her set carried the most emotional weight. In between songs the bubbly blonde was chatty, upbeat and supremely comfortable. Highlights included the snarling blues cut "Gasoline," the gospel-tinged Crack Me Open," the lovelorn ballad "Consolation Prize" and the country strut of "You Make it Better."
The last artist to take the stage was Brooklyn's Jesse Ruben, an erudite and garrulous singer-songwriter in the vein of Matt Duke and Matt White. Though he played to a crowd of no more than 75, he did his best to keep the set entertaining. Unfortunately before the set could even gain momentum he was quickly distracted by a chatty albeit drunk couple and never once gave them a moment of peace. While it is one thing to scold listeners for cell phone use or fighting, his repeated barbs eventually derailed the set into a snarky and almost condescending character play. That is not to say that Ruben's set was without winning moments. The soulful ballad "Different," written for a homosexual friend, was star-making in every sense of the word. Similarly the strident "Point Me In the Right Direction" and the uplifting "We Can," pointed towards something worth revisiting in future listens. Though much of his material mined the woes of heartbreak and failed romance, it was his non-romance songs that truly made the biggest splash.
If the evening had a true silver lining it was that the music served a greater purpose. With the exception of Fowler all three musicians performed sets in partnership with a non-profit passion project. Flagship Romance's set was performed in support of Charity Water; Crosby's supportedThe Giving Keys, while Ruben's garnered interest for the Christopher Reeve Foundation. In an era when music appears to becoming more and more self-centered, this night of benevolence and acoustic-based songwriting was a perfect tonic from all the din and clutter that so often permeates the daily grind.
What's the point of music if it doesn't challenge you? What's the point of art if it doesn't try to do something different?
The Cincinnati duo Bad Veins clearly understand both of these questions. While their music is hyper-caffeinated, hyper-aware indie pop, live on stage it is an entirely different matter. Utilizing an antiquated rotary phone, a reel-to-reel tape machine and a vintage organ, vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Davis and drummer Sebastian Schulz performed a master class in how to perform music live, last night at Orlando's The Social. Though the crowd was small ––– 50 max ––– the tandem played without pretense and never stopped bringing their A game.
Davis walked on stage first and introduced himself and an absent Schulz before diving into "Doubt," an ode to revisionist history. When the song finished, Schulz walked on stage and the band kicked it into high gear with the uber-infectious "Don't Run," a valentine about a failed relationship. Bad Veins songs are anchored in Schulz's measured drumming and Davis' sturdy croon.
One of the things that is most compelling about a vocalist is when his intonations and utterances feel sincere and genuine, as if the pain he sings about is something deeply felt. Davis seems to understand this and performs each song with a gravity that cannot be underestimated. Whether it was the halcyon heights of "Gold and Warm," the jittery fragility of "Falling Tide," or the chilly grandeur of "Child," there was something riveting about every second. The duo write pop songs brimming with hooks and nowhere was that more apparent than on the sugary "Dancing on TV," and the driving "The Lie." Davis is at his best when he's laying it all on the line and the prime examples of that were the starkly honest "Dry Out," the symphonic "If Then," and the carnal rocker "Afraid." By the time it was finished, the crowd of 50 were eager for an encore. Mission accomplished.
Opening the set was the St. Petersburg quartet Alexander and the Grapes, who performed a set of dense Americana not unlike Pedro the Lion. Whether it was the two-dimensional "Where I Go," which started off hazy and autumnal and segued into something dense and concussive; or the autobiographical "East Coast," about the rigors of life on the road, the entire set was crisp, confident and air tight. Vocalist Alex Charos has a dry vocal delivery that gives the songs more depth. His vocals mixed with Chase Swan's pedal steel were a perfect compliment and the songs themselves were deeply resonant. While the sonic landscape is definitely Americana, the quartet were not afraid to dive into deep, dark rhythms and mine for something more visceral.
Also on the bill was Stagnant Pools, a guitar drum-duo, who recently release their debut LP on Polyvinyl. Their seven-song set was ripe with moody guitar lines, pulsating drums and frontman Bryan Enas' drowsy vocals. While many of the songs blended together, standouts included the cylindrical "Illusions," and the crunchy "Solitude." The biggest problem with the set is that Enas is shy and taciturn and so he never came across as engaging or warm. Being that the bed are young and fresh out of college, there's plenty of reason to think they'll only develop further as a live band, as the years pass.
In the end, the night belonged to the Cincinnati duo Bad Veins. Polished, pristine and incredibly passionate, it was everything that ones hopes for in watching a live set. If this band is not on your radar yet, make a point to change that immediately.
Managed to catch the much talked about Brand New show at Nassau Coliseum this past weekend. It was a neat show. Started off at the side stage seeing Robbers acoustic. I had seen them play at Music Hall of Williamsburg while opening for Brand New (see review of that show in an August entry on this blog) and have to say they've gotten better. I think I like them better acoustic. The richness of the lead vocalist's voice is really front and center and that helps. He has a nice timbre to it and it's a big addition to their sound.
Headed over to the main stage to see Kevin Devine. He was phenomenal. Totally consumed the main stage and acted like he totally deserved to be there. An absolutely stellar performance and easily the best show he's put on in the eight or nine times I've seen him. His set list was:
1. Just Stay
3. Another Bag of Bones
4. Cotton Crush
5. Brother's Blood
Another song might have been played, but I can't think right now.
Shortly thereafter K. Dev, Manchester Orchestra took the stage and really put on an absolutely impressive show. I've always contended that the band doesn't need to sound as loud as they do, but on a big stage like this, the tactic worked well. While I am not a fan of much of their repertoire, I do enjoy "Shake it Out," "I Can Feel a Hot One," and "I've Got Friends." That being said, I've never gotten into I'm Like a Virgin, Losing a Child and if that makes me a minority on this site, so be it. My opinions aside it was probably the best set of the night. They were cohesive, crisp, dense, polished, rich, just very strong. Songs played included: "Shake It Out," "I've Got Friends," and "I'm Like a Virgin, Losing a Child." The best song of the night was probably, "Where Have You Been," which ended the set and featured Kevin Devine on backing vocals. It also went into seven or eight minute territory and just roared until its finish. The band's biggest asset is its drummer who absolutely destroys his kit and is one of the more ferocious and awe-inspiring drummers to watch. I'm still not sure what Chris ____ adds to the band and his weirdness and strange gestures on stage is just kind of disturbing. And for as much as may dislike them, its hard to argue with Andy Hull's lyrics, which are as strong as anybody out there today. I also will never understand why he chooses to be so unkempt and grizzly. It's really just disturbing.
Thrice was next and I just could not get into it. They played the opening and closing song off of Beggars and those were by far the best of the night. They also played two songs from The Artist in the Ambulance, one song off of Vheissu and one off of The Alchemy Index. It was a decent set, but all of it felt so dated. Listening to them just sounds like listening to any average scene band. There was not much that separated them from the pack and they seemed quite ho-hum and average to me.
Glassjaw was next and while its not my thing by any stretch, Daryl Palumbo commands attention, is an incredibly charismatic and engaging performer and really knows how to work his way through a non-screaming song (i.e. "Ape Dos Mil," which was executed perfectly). They played about 30 minutes, much like the rest of the bands and left to an absolutely thunderous ovation.
As for Brand New. Kinda interesting set. No encore, no longer than an hour, just a quick set with little talking. They had a screen with black-and-white images during most of their songs and it was a neat tactic that I kinda enjoyed. It wasn't the best I've heard them. Of all the songs played, "Limousine," and "You Stole," were two of the best. I also thought "Luca," was strong. Hadn't heard that song in quite awhile. I really loved "Welcome to Bangkok," opening up and thought it was the best version I've heard of it. Both "At The Bottom," and "Bought a Bride," were really tight. I mean hands down stellar. Jesse pushed his vocals and basically growled and yowled through many verses and refrains that didn't really need such forced intonations. He's at his best when he's even-keel and smooth. He was far from that during the duration of the set. Why he chooses to do this, I'll never know. The set list is as follows. There may be one or two wrong, so forgive me for that. By memory, this is how I remember it going down
1. Welcome to Bangkok
3. You Wont Know
4. Okay I Believe You...But My Tommy Gun Dont
5. Sic Tranit Gloria...Glory Fades
9. Sowing Season
10. You Stole
12. The Archers Bows Have Broken
13. Jesus Christ
14. Bought a Bride
15. At the Bottom
16. Play Crack the Sky
17. Seventy Times Seven
The Use Your Sole Tour, sponsored by TOMS Shoes, visited New York City's Nokia Theatre last night. Headliners Hanson were supported by New Jersey's Steel Train and Californians HelloGoodbye and Sherwood.
San Luis Obispo's Sherwood took the stage first, tossing beachballs into the crowd. Frontman Nate Henry ditched his standard bass in favor of an acoustic guitar and the sextet dove into the mid-tempo cut "Not Gonna Love," a decidedly weak and ho-hum opener as far as set openers go. Though the execution was precise, the entire vibe was way too calm from the onset. While that's certainly not a horrible thing, it's not exactly what one expects from an opener. Henry returned to his bass on "You Are," which featured inspired keyboard contributions from Mikey Leibovich. Unfortunately, the guitars took a backseat to Henry's vocals, whose confidence and near-flawless delivery anchored the song from start to finish. In many ways, had he not been front and center, this band would have come across as horribly ordinary and mildly boring.
After two decidedly restrained songs, the Californians jumped into "Song In My Head," allowing the band a chance to step away from their placidity. From the first note, their execution felt more visceral, more confident, more polished and the most complete of any song thus far. Members of Steel Train ambled onto the stage, joined by Sherwood's significant others for the cerebral and subdued, "Make It Through," a midtempo yarn with a warm, nighttime ambiance.
Returning to the music, Henry guided the band into "For the Longest Time," a run-of-the-mill power-pop song that sounded incredibly rehearsed, calculated and horribly average. Had Henry not held a note for 30-plus seconds towards the song's finish, nothing about the song would have stood out. The lackluster set ended with the emotive yearning of "Maybe This Time," which was one of the set's few highlights. Exiting the stage in under 30 minutes, the band was effusive in praising the crowd, but little about the set was worthy of effuse praise. From the moment they walked on stage, the band appeared tired, uninspired and rather rudimentary. For a band who has made a killing with their frenzied live shows, the entire set was far too disappointing, and did little to quell the rumors about the band's imminent demise.
New Jersey's Steel Train took to the stage next and performed a set of six fuzzy, drug-induced jams. Opening with new song "Last Generation of Hope," vocalist Jack Antonoff was a manic fireball of energy and his bouncy presence was both eye-opening and thought-provoking. Though the song's vocal work left a lot to be desired, the guitar-driven vessel was amiable and hopeful. On the funk-inspired "Firecracker," he came across as overly dramatic, pretentious and horribly overconfident. Aided by members of HelloGoodbye, "Firecracker," was musically quite lively, searing and dripping with energy. The anxiety-ridden "Kill Monsters in Rain," began with a smoky blues riff and more frenetic gyrations from Antonoff. Once again the song lacked a serious chorus, and he seemed to make up for that with his over-the-top movements, appearing more like a whirling dervish than that of a lead singer. An acapella version of "The Road Song," was the set's high water mark, as the song was off-the-cuff, unexpected and terrifically executed. The post 9/11 confusion of "I Feel Weird," marked the band's last song of the night, and even included an attempt at Abba's "Mamma Mia," that drifted towards the end, but began rather precisely. Borrowing a few guitar lines from British band James, Steel Train proved to be an excitable bunch, but a bit too melodramatic. After the uninspired Sherwood set, the energy was certainly a welcome addition, but one couldn't help but wonder, why does this band have to be this arrogant? More the point, does it have to be this dramatic?
After a 30-minute set break, Long Beach, CA's Hellogoodbye took the stage completely without pretense or snobbery. Their self-deprecating, slightly awkward on-stage persona made for one of the more entertaining and enjoyable sets this reviewer has seen all year. Beginning with the ukelele-fueled "When We First Met," vocalist Forrest Kline sounded overmatched and slightly askew, but was complimented by a supple rhythm section and a rolling trombone towards the song's latter half. The band pushed on into "All Time Lows," and fan-favorite "Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn," and the latter proved to be the point at which the California quintet dusted off the cob webs and hit their stride.
A twee mandolin began the rollicking "Baby, it's Fact," which had a carefree simplicity that was easy-going, sunny and sprite. Danny Flynn's trombone contributions once again aided a rather simple and conventional pop ditty. After a group of overexcited teenagers tried to start a pit, Kline urged the crowd to, "start a hug circle, or begin a tickle fight," and heeding his own advice, did just that with his fellow band members, firstly going after guitarist Andrew Richards, and then after keyboard player Joseph Marro, as the band stumbled into "Call and Return," which proved to be more of an exercise in silliness than sterling pop execution. Another new song, the caffeinated and punchy, "You Sleep Alone," followed and it proved to be one of the better songs of the set. When the song finished, Kline encouraged the crowd to boo effusively, noting that, "It's still a work in progress." The hilarious gesture only proved the point that nothing about the set was conventional, expected or grounded.
The pensive and placid "Dear Jamie, Sincerely Me," elicited a thunderous roar from the crowd and allowed the group to display their musical muscle. An attempt to bring an overzealous fan onstage turned to disaster when security demanded the denizen return to his place in the crowd. Admitting that the maneuver was probably a bit foolish, Kline gleefully admitted, "Well, we told you it would get weird." Bassist Travis Head plugged the band's DJ set at Angels and Kings later that night, to which Kline added, "Yep, I'll be there. Playing Scrabble and drinking Shirley Temples. Should be fun. I hope to see you there."
The sentimental "Oh It Is Love," pushed the crowd into a tizzy, before the quintet tried two new songs. The first, "Not The Same," was earnest and well-worn, revealing that of all the songs perhaps this is one the band has most expertly. Beginning with Kline on ukelele, the song is ostensibly a slow-moving ballad that takes off towards the two-minute mark. Keyboard player Marro took to the acoustic guitar for the jittery and jumpy "Follow You," easily the band's best song of the night. Confident, mature and vocally tender, "Follow You," was the sound of a band in full control and finding their stride.
A mandolin and melodica framed the romance ballad, "Bonnie Taylor Shakedown 2K1," a song Kline dedicated to his fiancee and to Colorado balloon boy Falcon Heene. While the band's intentions were strong, it was the only point in the set where perhaps their joking antics got the best of them. Not one of the band member's seemed to know in which direction the song was headed and seemed puzzled about what notes to play. For a band who was a co-headliner, the horribly amateurish display was both disappointing and unprofessional. As if to atone for going astray, the band closed out their set with "Here (In Your Arms)," which set the room ablaze with its soaring chorus and found the entire room in an absolute lather.
Two of the best roots-rock albums released this year are Will Hoge's The Wreckage and Bronze Radio Return's Old Time Speaker, and both visited New York City this past weekend.
Appearing last Thursday at the Bowery Ballroom Will Hoge and his three-piece band (drummer Sigurdur Birkis, bassist Adam Beard and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Devin Malone) performed a sterling set of 20 lullabies and rockers. Though he drew on a handful of songs from new album The Wreckage, Hoge also tackled much of his back catalog, including songs from 2001's Blackbird on a Lonely Wire ("Not That Cool," "Secondhand Heart," "Someone Else's Baby") as well as 2000's Carousel ("Ms. Williams"). This surprising tactic was not lost on the crowd, who seemed to sing along to each song from the minute Hoge stepped on the stage.
Highlights of the night included the sparse "The Wreckage," the sweetly affecting "Lover Tonight," and the forlorn heartache of "Dirty Little War," all three featuring Hoge an acoustic guitar and seated in a foldable chair. He even tackled the piano on "Too Late Too Soon," the closer off of The Wreckage, but the tactic appeared to be a misstep as the Nashville songwriter was buried at the back of the stage. Save for that one fumble, there was little about the set that was disappointing. Rousing rockers "Long Gone," and "Highway Wings," featured the same amount of tenacity as fiery cuts "Sex, Lies and Money," and "Better Off Now That You're Gone."
It's been well-documented since his major label debut Blackbird on a Lonely Wire, that Hoge bears the torch of heartland rock, passed on from the likes of Petty and Springsteen. A performer who always puts his all into every performance, his frenetic intensity is very much akin to Springsteen and his laid-back charm very reminiscent of Petty, making for two most accurate comparisons. While his studio performances are always engaging, there are few things as uplifting as seeing Hoge in concert. Ever charismatic Hoge charmed the crowd detailing his love of his New York; his appreciation to his newfound family at Rykodisc, and defended his Southern drawl and propensity to babble in between songs. Armed with gratitude, sincerity and humility, he was the consummate gentleman and was never pretentious or disaffected. Those three things, combined with contributions from Burkis, Ballard and Malone, made for one of the more spectacular sets of heartland rock this reviewer has seen in the past few years.
Three days later, Hartford, CT's Bronze Radio Return performed an hour-long set of Midwestern roots-rock, culled mostly from their album Old Time Speaker. Beginning with the groove-rock of "Lo-Fi," the band then dipped into 2007's "Shade Tonight." Expanding on the original version, the song featured an extended harmonica solo by Craig Struble, two organ flourishes from Matt Warner and a fiery guitar solo from Patrick Fetkowitz. Building on that momentum came the cheery pop of "Digital Love," with its radio-ready chorus and Henderson's smooth vocals. Never once out of synch, and utterly flawless, the Nutmeg sextet moved effortlessly from song to song.
The real apex of the set was the bouncy "It's Okay Now," which featured a 90 second five-drum assault, with each member banging various drums, cymbals and snares. The percussive intro was an effective and skilled tactic that proved the band's spontaneity and ability to deviate from the script. A dip back into another old song proved once again to be a chance for the band to showcase their inherent ability to jam. A request from the 50 plus fans in attendance to play one more song, brought the band out on stage for their country-pop sendup "Pullin' On The Reins," providing an effective punctuation mark on an overwhelmingly entertaining set of easy-to-please roots rock.
Though their name still remains below the surface, their set at the Mercury Lounge revealed that they are most certainly a band to contend with in the years to come. Armed with maturity beyond their years, Bronze Radio Return are truly on the precipice of something great.
I managed to catch the 90s rock band Better Than Ezra at Raleigh's Downtown Live this past weekend. Prior to the event, they had remained one of my favorite bands I had yet to see live. Touring in support of their seventh album Paper Empire, the band opened up with "Turn Off The Bright Lights," before kicking into "Good." Lead singer Kevin Griffin was jovial and light-hearted and never once took himself too seriously. Bassist Tom Drummond also shared the spotlight as he relentlessly thanked the crowd for standing out in the rain to enjoy their set. New drummer Michael Jerome was a beast behind the kit and really adds a new dimension to the band. Classic songs like "Desperately Wanting" and "R3wind" were terrific and the Rolling Stones-send up "Juicy," was an absolute crowd-pleaser. "Misunderstood" and "Extra Ordinary," both off their 2002 effort Closer were two of the more memorable ones from the night and the two newest songs, "Just One Day," and "All In," both revealed a penchant for pop prettiness. Though "At the Stars," was never played, "A Lifetime," and new single "Absolutely Still," were and both posssessed a cutting clarity and panache that was a treat to watch. The trio came on for an encore and played two more from Paper Empire before finishing off with the driving rocker "In the Blood," which featured parts of Blur's "Song 2." All in all the band displayed a firm affinity for pleasing the crowd while also maintaining the components of strong musicianship. Griffin, a much sought-after songwriter has already attached his names to many Billboard hits, has a warm, comedic charisma that is undeniable. Now 20 years into leading his trio, there seem to be little reason to think they're slowing down. Few if any know how to pen a pop hit like him. And Saturday night's show at Moore Square in Raleigh proved exactly that. The setlist can be found here.
Not going to write this as formally as my Brand New review.
Saw ATAL last night. Dan and the boys were as solid as ever. Opened up with "Circles," then moved into "Breakers," "Ghosts of York," "Go Easy," "Stab City," "A Break A Pause," and ended with "In Case of Rapture."
"Circles" was solid, it's a truly fun live song and the band, as expected, has a fun time playing it. "Breakers" was as good as I have heard it, their was a definitive urgency and passion behind it I hadn't seen before. The last two minutes was just the band jamming, which was a true delight. "Ghosts of York" started off limp but really kicked in the final minute, aided by a trumpet. "Go Easy," featured more trumpet and some of Dan's best live vocals ever. Just truly astounding stuff. At present, this is by far my most favorite song of the new stuff and one of my all time fave ATAL songs. "Stab City" featured a trumpet intro, and a trumpet outro, and a longer trumpet interlude after the first chorus. "A Break A Pause," also turned into a jam in the last two minutes and went from this mid-tempo track of filler to this really sensational live song. "In Case of Rapture," was redonkulous. Though it sounded a bit thin in places, Dan stepped away from the mic and really put on his best arena-ready frontman imitation. It was very Liam Gallagher and it was just solid. The chorus is undeniable live and it has this whole Wembley Stadium vibe to it. I truly have a feeling this song will be the one that takes them farther than before.
In talking with the band I learned that they had a tour with Aqualung that got cancelled, after Matt Hales backed out. Boo on him for that. That would have gotten the band into some seriously large venues. I learned that their is a huge demand for them in Europe and that the band is hoping to film a "Music in High Places" DVD in Central America, at some point in the not so distant future.
In talks with both Dan and Cliff they feel incredibly psyched for the album's release and seem to really be confident that release will be the one that pushes them over the brink. All I can say to that is it's about damn time.
As for Dredg. Wow, total letdown. While I enjoyed the band's musicianship, the set was way, way, way too loud. Not only that Gavin appeared really distant, narcisstic and unapproachable. He even at one point said, "I'm sorry my on-stage banter sucks, I'm a musician, I don't do on-stage banter." It was really quite off-putting. The minimal fan interaction and his pompous strutting was just really unpleasant. The music was strong, if not a bit alienating. They had these pre-recorded voiceovers during the transitions of the songs and it was just bizzare to say the least. So hard to follow. After promising they were only going to play one more song, their guitar tech removed the drums from the stage and the drummer played piano for this really pretty instrumental. It was the only downbeat song of the night except for this one romantic ballad. For a band who really pushes the sonic envelope, a quieter numer would have been preferred. The whole band just seemed aloof, listless and egotistical. I talked with fans after the show and they all seemed to agree, the band was far better at HighLine Ballroom, last fall.
As for the Rx Bandits. I was impressed. Very professional, very polished and overall a really great set. For a band I was marginally into, I have to say, they really turned my head. This was solid, solid stuff, and I was impressed.
Sounds of Buzz Feature: Brand New, Music Hall of Williamsburg, July 11, 2009
Returning to a New York stage for their first headlining show in more than a year, Long Island's Brand New performed a set of 20 pristine, mistake-free songs last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Blending work from all three of their albums, and even a few off of their upcoming album Daisy, the quintet effortlessly entertained the sold-out crowd, sometimes without even moving so much as a muscle. For the performance's first three songs, lead singer Jesse Lacey appeared content to stand behind the microphone and play his guitar, barely moving. While guitarist Vin Accardi cavorted about and drummer Brian Lane smashed the drums Lacey remained steely and calm. Opening up with, "Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't" the quintet moved through the song in a very workmanlike fashion, with Lacey's vocals sounding yelpy and throaty.
Though it wasn't the most crisp of openings, the fans seemed completely unaware as they bobbed along with fingers in the air. The band segued into "Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades," another methodical and ho-hum performance that seemed to serve more as a warm up then that of precision. When the band kicked into third song "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows," they seemed completely comfortable, harnessing the chorus' unbridled energy in a way that allowed the song to seem as incredibly fresh and recent as it has ever been. In those four brief minutes, the mood changed and all five seemed content to step away from their warmup and fully embrace the night ahead of them. This was most evident, when the band jumped into "The Shower Scene." Feeding off the band's energy, the entire venue became electric, and the quintet themselves willed the live set in a new direction: more urgent, less controlled, more spontaneous, less scripted.
That sense of urgency carried through into the desperate, "Jaws Theme Swimming," and the vengeful "Mix Tape." Normally known for barely cracking a smile, Lacey seemed to let go during seventh song, "Seventy Times Seven," as he bopped his head from side to side and appeared almost slaphappy as the band carved their way through the jittery verses. The capacity crowd's manic response easily made "Seventy Times Seven," one of the night's most memorable numbers. Before introducing new song "Bought a Bride," Lacey humbly deflected any positive attention centered around the band's new album. "It's just another album, it may be good, it may be bad, but it's really just another album. It's not that big a deal."
As for the song itself, the vocal hook on the refrain is as vocally strong as anything the band has ever released and while the verses can be a bit shouty, the layered effect of the drums, guitar and bass are the sign of marked progress and can be argued that the song may be one of the band's finest to date. On the heels of "Bride," came the shrieky "Gasoline," which possessed a raw, visceral quality that was prone to spastic freakouts and seemed slightly rushed. After promising the crowd, "One more new song, if you're good," he paused to extend his gratitude to the fans, venue, friends and family, admitting how fortunate they were to be able to do such a thing for a living.
For a band who constantly receive cheap shots for being withdrawn, arrogant and selfish, the few moments of humility were a breath of fresh air and offered a few moments of candor that some bands seem to take for granted. They then pushed on into the propulsive, "Sowing Season," which seemed to kickstart the set to a third and more frenetic level. When it ended, all five seemed to pause and take one big collective sigh, soaking up the moment and pausing to reflect on the night itself. Starting back up again, the band delicately pierced their way through "Archers," with Lacey wearing a smile throughout and guitarist Vin Accardi continuing his habit of flailing about, as if the night itself was his very last. After an overeager male fan began shouting at bassist Garrett Tierney to remove his shirt, the entire venue erupted into laughter, and the band themselves even stopped to join in as well. The few moments of hilarity induced smiles all around and allowed the band to relax, before diving into the pensive, "Jesus Christ."
Announcing that the new album was full of "lots of quiet, loud, quiet, loud," Lacey and crew premiered another new song, which at present remains untitled. The mid-tempo yarn begins with a hollow introduction centered around Brian Lane's percussive drums and Lacey's smoky vocals. The tempo and vibe seems half-country, half-Cobain. As soon as it finished, Lacey paused once again to thank the crowd, admitting, "This is truly fantastic. It's fun to be a band again and play a night like this. This was really great. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you."
The set ended with the fiery "Guernica," the schizophrenic "Degausser," and the powerhouse "You Won't Know," which was explosive and highly memorable, highlighted by guitarist Vin Accardi leaning his back to the crowd and playing the last few chords on his back. Drummer Lane, bassist Tierney and guitarist Derrick Sherman left the stage, leaving Lacey and Accardi on their own to sing "Play Crack the Sky." And then perhaps, most fittingly, Lacey stood on stage all by his lonesome and serenaded the crowd with the forever young anthem "Soco Amaretto Lime."
Though hearing the 31-year-old Lacey sing, "We're gonna stay 18 forever," was a bit comical, the song's intentions were not lost on the crowd, who shouted the chorus as if their own survival depended on it. Humbled by the gesture, Lacey paused to smile and saluted the crowd, bending down to fans and offering high-fives before exiting the stage.
Having gone on record as admitting that the new album has a few songs that "are about something coming to a close, or knowing when it's time to put something away and move on," the concert in Williamsburg was a fresh reminder that if the band's angling towards a conclusion, it would certainly be met with derision by many. Now nine years into a vaulted career, Brand New seems as important and as topical as ever, and if 550 feverish hometown fans weren't enough indication, then who knows what is?