I saw a band I never thought I’d see this week. After years of silence, sporadic rumors, and almost nothing in terms of live appearances, Long Island’s co-reigning kings Brand New has turned up the volume dramatically in recent months. Festival appearances have increased to full-fledged tours, and rumors of new material on the way seem increasingly promising. When I heard that Brand New was making a stop at Showbox Seattle for their newest tour, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind: I have to go. Torrance punk wunderkinds Joyce Manor as tour support laid a thick, delightfully sweet icing on the cake.
As with most 10+ year bands, Brand New is blessed and burdened with a fanbase-spectrum spanning multiple generations of listeners: the diehards who know every word to every B-Side starting at/before Your Favorite Weapon, the humalongs onboarded during Deja Entendu‘s runaway success (I’m in this group, more or less), the now-adults who found themselves enjoying the sudden lyrical and musical mastery in The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me (I’m in here too), and the growing number of young folks who joined for Daisy‘s poignantly ferocious/fragile experimentation. Unsurprisingly, the show’s demographic was a little older, and equally unsurprising, the show was very, very sold out.
My buddy Dave flew up from LA to join me, and we happily parked a few blocks away to join a long entry line. Shoutout to the grown men in an SUV we saw belting Taking Back Sunday in super high-pitched voices on the way down to Showbox SoDo, and to the nice couple we talked to while waiting in line. With recent efforts to prevent scalping, and an inherently high-demand pair of artists playing, the queue for the door was as long as it was excitedly anxious. We walked in without a hitch, and settled into a nice spot upfront, near stage right.
Oklahoma trio Broncho opened up, an expanded group currently touring in preparation for new album Just Enough Hip To Be A Woman, out 9/16 on Dine Alone. Featuring three guitarists, the strummy lo-fi rock band was right up the alley for a Brand New opener, and pushed their set along with a frenetic performance by main members Ryan Lindsey, Nathan Price, and Ben King.
Next up was California’s Joyce Manor, one of the fastest up-and-comers in the punk scene and certainly a frontrunner for best record this year: junior entry and Epitaph debut Never Hungover Again. Having seen them last year headlining a cut set at The Vera Project, it was fantastic to see this young band tear it up on a big stage with fan picks like ‘Constant Headache’ and a sped up version of ‘See How Tame I Can Be_’ early in the night. With a fun mix off the new record, the 2011 self-titled, and 2012’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, Joyce Manor displayed a developed maturity onstage without sacrificing much edge. Electrifying frontman/guitarist Barry Johnson and talented bassist Matt Ebert traded the group’s signature yelps, screams, and irresistible harmonies, while lead guitarist Chase Knobbe and drummer Kurt Walcher stacked up the sear and sizzle in the full band sound. Uptempo versions of ‘Bride Of Usher’ and first single ‘Schley’ kept the energy levels up, all pointing to a promising future for this new Epitaph pick.
The wait was long between Joyce Manor and highly anticipated headliners Brand New. What might have been 30 minutes felt like hours, as the heat from the night steadily built up in the old brick venue. Traces of incense and low light set the atmosphere while the band ironically piped in Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Please Don’t Keep Me Waiting’ before taking the stage.
At nearly 15 years old, Brand New has a long and notable history traversing sounds, styles, and influences. I remember staying up late in middle school blasting ‘The Quiet Things…’ and ‘Seventy Times 7’ in my CD player, mad at no one in particular but testing out every spiteful lyric anyway. Hints of latent talent were apparent even then, furious lines involving jellyfish and windshields claiming teenaged vengeance more original (and less forced) than most of what was out there.
The fans around us eagerly trawled Setlist.fm for earlier shows, wondering if ‘Jude Law’ or ‘Jesus’ would show up, discussing rumors of a new song played in Portland the night before, and lamenting the lack of old hits like ‘Mixtape’ and ‘Play Crack The Sky’. When Brand New finally took the stage, it was with ‘You Won’t Know’, the eerie guitars framing frontman Jesse Lacey’s haunted murmurings.
Quickly following with the dramatic ‘Degausser’ and ‘Sink’, Lacey jumped easily from quiet singing to banshee howls while the other members flowed along flawlessly. Lead guitarist Vinnie Accardi emerged from his mane of hair to blast through the band’s many guitar breaks, carried by birthday-man/drummer Brian Lane and the fuzzy ploddings of bassist Garrett Tierney.
It wasn’t until a few songs in that Lacey started to settle into a singing role, most notably in the lush fingerpicking of Daisy first single ‘At The Bottom’. ‘You Stole’ gave way to a rousing version of ‘Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades’, the crowd eagerly slithering through the verses before shouting the chorus’ last line, “Die young and save yourself!”
The band continued through songs old and new, wrapping up a bone-chilling rendition of ‘Seventy Times 7’ before stopping to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for Lane, a band at ease onstage from years of experience. Once the birthday rites were administered, the venue quieted before the incredible ‘Sowing Season (Yeah)’, the favorite for original set opener.
Considering at least one album was issued without any sort of lyric sheet or guide, the crowd did a remarkable job of following the sometimes unintelligible ragings of this veteran group. Older songs like ‘Luca’ and ‘Okay I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t’ made up the rest of the set, finally giving way to the devastation of ‘Limousine (MS Rebridge), the magnificence of ‘Jesus’, and the nostalgia of Lacey’s acoustic closer ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’.
As with most other bands coming back into the limelight, Brand New is one of those bands where you’re never quite sure whether you’ll get a chance to see them again. There aren’t many artists whose engagement level and intensity translate so well from the studio to the stage, and I joked with some friends that Brand New’s live show rivals the passion and purity of Ellie Goulding’s, and with her being a fan as well, I’m sure that’s a statement I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. If you have a chance to see this long-running New York band, by all means, go.