Brand New Rocks the Avalon

‘I am not your friend! Not your lover! I’m not your family!’ shouts vocalist Jesse Lacey in the first song of Brand New’s set. Even though he’s yelling into a microphone plugged into enough wattage to keep the ears of audience members at The Avalon popping well into the next day, he’s still barely audible above the screaming fans packing the venue to capacity for the second night in a row.
Trying to be heard over excited fans is a consistent part of Brand New’s hour-and-a-half set. The group has established a solid fan base over the last few years with relatively little help from video or radio play and, as a consequence, have some pretty die-hard fans.
This creates an interesting concert-going experience. The Brand New pit was lined shoulder-to-shoulder with younger and older fans alike, and while there was no moshing and the number of crowd surfers could be counted on one hand, it took an unbelievable amount of energy just to stay in one place.
The Avalon was already pretty packed when the opening bands, Manchester Orchestra and Kevin Devine, played their relatively short sets. On CD, they don’t really stick out from the pack of fairly unknown indie bands, but they did share the stage with Devine for the end of his band’s set. The Orchestra’s presence boosted Devine’s performance significantly.
Devine, or, as he likes to call his group, Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band, was a decent folky band with some alternative leanings. As one can probably tell from the name, Devine has a large potty-mouth for the genre, which takes some getting used to.
He drops f-bombs between (and sometimes in) songs like there’s no tomorrow, a phenomenon that occurs from time to time when bands that don’t have an inherently edgy sound want to prove that they can be bad-asses too.
The music and message were decidedly hippie-esque, and Devine got visibly upset at an audience member who proudly shouted that he drives an SUV (hippies are generally supposed to be against using too much gas, unless they’re driving an old Volkswagen minibus). Devine paused, stuttered a bit, and then shouted, ‘This next song is dedicated to that retard!’
While the crowd responded positively to the openers, they really came alive when the headliners took the stage.
Brand New opened with an instrumental from their new album, a very skippable track when played off the CD, but great live. The band had a lot of fun with guitar effect pedals throughout the evening, and it’s always nice when songs sound a little different live than they do on CD.
However, the band didn’t have a lot of stage presence. It took a while to adjust to the aforementioned energy levels required to hold your ground near the stage and nonstop screaming of lyrics by hardcore fans, but eventually it was noticeable that the band didn’t move around a whole lot, and Lacey would occasionally say the lyrics more than sing them.
All of this changed for the encore, which lasted longer than Manchester Orchestra’s entire set. The members of Brand New started running around onstage and the vocals were crisper, making it clear that, when they want to, they can go off. If this is how they’ve been performing night after night, it’s an impressive feat.
Their set list was also unusual. Despite constant requests from audience members, they avoided many of the hits from their first two albums, mostly playing from their new CD.
There were about half a dozen songs from the last two albums, but they didn’t touch ‘The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows,’ which was the single that expanded their fan base when ‘Deja Entendu’ was released a few years ago.
Even though people were yelling for the band to play the old stuff, they still appeared perfectly happy with every song Brand New performed. With thoughtful lyrics and song structures a step above much of the indie music scene, this band will probably be free to do what they want for quite some time.