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A Brand New Review

February 16, 2012

On Monday 6th February, against an outside of minus temperatures, fog, ice, and the threat of more snow, Rock City (Nottingham, UK) presented to the world Brand New (who, having been around now for just over a decade are no longer quite so brand new), supported first by fiN and second by The Xcerts, as part of the headliners’ seemingly spontaneous UK tour. Even though I’d known about this gig for a while due to my habitual scouring of the Rock City website gig listings, it seemed that barely anyone else did – the tour was barely promoted away from the venue and when I arrived, 20 minutes or so before the doors were due to open the queue consisted of about 20 people. I was shocked by this considering the magnitude of the headline act and their tendancy to play a single, large UK date before jetting off to their next stop – I really thought that given the opportunity to see such a famous band (well, if you ask the right people…) play a comparatively intimate venue like Rock City, more people would have turned out in spite of the freezing cold.

I have a bit of a problem with Rock City because the last few gigs I’ve been to, the first act has come on stage almost as soon as the doors have opened and have wound up playing to a virtually empty main room. This happened, unfortunately, to fiN. By the time I’d gotten in, met my friend Andi and completed my normal gig routine, they were already well into their set and were playing to a crowd who were more bothered about getting a drink from the bar than listening to their music. This isn’t their fault, of course, it’s simply bad timing on the way the event was organised and had there been another 15-20 minutes between the doors opening and the music starting, I think they would have had a much better reception. Having said that, though, from what I did hear of them, the impression I got was that they were distinctly normal. The vocalist, Luke Joyce, is pretty hot, but sexy doesn’t sell records. At least not to alternative folk, anyway.

Next up, after a relatively short interval, were The Xcerts. The crowd at this point wasn’t much bigger than for fiN, except that they were on the dancefloor now and not faffing about at the bar, which I suppose is good for them. I had quite high hopes for this band – I’d overheard a conversation in the queue about how good they were and how it was surprising that they didn’t have more of a following than they did – but I was a bit disappointed. Their music had a bit more life to it than fiN’s and they seemed to be rather enjoying themselves, but it just wasn’t compelling. I didn’t feel as though I’d be missing something amazing if I left my spot and I wasn’t even especially bothered when three inconsiderately and unreasonably tall people came and stood directly in front of me, blocking my view of the stage. Average again, then.

The 40 minute gap while Brand New did all their sound checks etc gave me chance to find a better place to stand, at least, but I did feel that the length of time they took was a bit excessive, especially considering that the curfew for 14+ gigs like this is normally 11pm. They weren’t exactly setting themselves up to satisfy their fans and I was already growing a little bit impatient by the time they took to the stage.

They started off in a subdued manner with “Lets Play Crack The Sky” from their 2003 album release Deja Entendu before bursting into some of their more recent stuff – “Sink”, “Vices” and “Gasoline” from Daisy (2009) followed by “Sowing Season”, “Millstone” and “Luca” from The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me (2006) – that has a lot more energy to it and really got the crowd going. Pockets of moshers were opening up all over the place and there was one particularly enthusiastic fan beside me who was singing along relentlessly, beer in one hand and air-grabbing passionately at appropriate moments with the other. I was starting to enjoy myself. Then Jesse Lacey addressed the audience. Not to say hello, but to give us a bit of handy first aid advice. I will always remember that should someone next to me start seizing, the worst thing I can do is put my hand in my mouth to stop them swallowing their tongue because they might bite down. Was this vaguely amusing in a bewildering “what is he on?” sort of way? Yes, yes it was. Was it at all relevant to anything to do with their music, or the gig? No, not at all.

They then launched into a 6-song section of their older stuff, playing through iconic songs like “Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades”, “OK I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t”, “The Quiet Things That No-One Ever Knows”, “Me Vs. Maradona Vs. Elvis”, “Jude Law and The Semester Abroad” and “Seventy Times 7”. Those of you who know Brand New’s music will know that this stuff is largely acoustic and slow, and frankly, that made for pretty dull viewing in a live situation. You can’t really dance about to that sort of thing and the crowd, even though they were singing along, were static (with the exception of the air-grabbing nutcase next to me). What was particularly shocking about this section was that Lacey had to ask the band for the first note of “Jude Law”. That’s one of their most iconic songs and is probably one of their most played at gigs. It’s from their debut album and is nearly a decade old. You’d think he’d know how it went by now. I was not impressed. At all.

After this, Lacey gave the audience a bit more handy advice about “sometimes it’s just not your fault” and “you just need the electricity” before the band played a few more of their newer tracks – two from Daisy and one from The Devil and God. The slow and boring theme was continuing, the time was fast advancing towards 11 without the band having really acknowledged how far through their set they were or even really spoken to the audience apart from Lacey’s interjections of random advice. I was starting to consider leaving. During “Jesus Christ”, I went to go and get my coat ready to leave. My Dad was texting me to say he was waiting outside (I’d opted not to drive myself considering the questionable weather conditions) and was being harrassed a bit by some tramps begging for money. The band finished the song and we left, leaving Jesse Lacey talking to a half-full room about how much he loves his fans and how they feel bad about not getting over to the UK that often. When we met my Dad outside, he told us that we were not the first to leave and in fact quite a big crowd had been filtering out before we appeared. I wasn’t really surprised.

I learned after the gig that after we left, they played a further three songs by way of an encore – “Degausser”, You Won’t Know” and “Limousine”, all from The Devil and God… . None of these tracks are particularly vibrant, so I don’t think they really went out with a bang either and I don’t feel at all as though I would have benefited from staying.

Interestingly, it was the first band of the night that left the last impression on me as I was bracing myself for the icy February air. Standing at the bottom of the steps were a few guys, asking everyone if they caught the first band of the night and handing out postcards with all of fiN’s details on; you know, their Twitter page, Facebook, that sort of thing, and although their music didn’t much impress me, that little act did, and next time I see them I think I’ll give them more of a chance.

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