Monday, November 12, 2007

wasting words on lower cases and capitals

I guess this will have to be considered my strongly worded letter...

First, I must apologize, because this post may be a bit stilted. I'm having some trouble organizing my thoughts about the last concert I went to, and am just trying to get them out, I guess. Last weekend, I went to the first night of Brand New's three-night engagement at the Wiltern. For some background, Brand New is my favorite band of all time. Now, I know this makes me incredibly, incredibly emo. But that's okay. When I was a lonely teenager at all girls' school, full of angst and pretension, emo was the right choice for me. Dashboard Confessional, of course, was my gateway band into the genre, and for that I am grateful, if not unique. But for as much as Chris Carrabba's music defined a generation of skinny adolescents with heavy bangs, Brand New was the band whose CDs I listened to over and over and over again, every night when I was trying too hard to get everything out into my journal to sleep.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I first heard "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows." It, of course, blew my mind / changed my life / you name it. Ever since then, pretty much every track off of the band's first two albums, Your Favorite Weapon and Deja Entendu, have meant a lot to me. It's one of those things that's difficult to describe, but I know that most people have experienced this kind of love for music, so hopefully you get it. Last year I picked up their latest album, The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, and was a little flummoxed. Of course, loving the band so much, I couldn't help but have exceedingly high expectations, but I really had a hard time getting into it. "Jesus" is one of the band's best songs, and represents a lot of the deepening introversion that has been evident as the band has aged, but it is one of only a couple of standouts on the album. Maybe it's because it didn't come along at the same crucial point in my musical development as the first two albums, but this third disc from the band just never resonated as much with me.

The last time that I had seen Brand New live was when they opened for Dashboard at the Universal Amphitheater in 2003. At the time, my friend and I were the only people around us in the audience who had heard of them, and it was an excellent performance. The stadium was barely filled, as most people were still not there for the next opening act, MxPx, but I still had a great time listening to Jesse Lacey & Co. So last weekend, I could barely contain my excitement to finally see them again. My friends Tiff and Esther had seen Lacey perform solo in February, and reported that he performed about equally from all three albums. My anticipation only mounted - finally the chance to be in an audience full of Brand New fans, listening to the songs we collectively adore. We got to the Wiltern an hour early so we could wait in line to get wristbands for the pit. mewithoutYou was a good opening act, and I really enjoyed Thrice, whom I'd never really listened to before (their guitarist, Teppei Teppanishi, is kind of the hottest man ever, too). Brand New came on. I was...floored. They were passionate, excellent performers. About a quarter of the way into their set, they played three of their older songs. Then, they kept playing. Every track off the new album. They left the stage. Tiff, Esther, and I stood with our mouths agape. The band came back for their encore. They had to play the crowd favorites from their older albums, right? Right?! They had a jam session.

We walked outside, silently, and drank our iced coffees, trying to figure out what had happened. Maybe it was because they didn't want to play all the same songs for every night of their engagement in L.A. Maybe they just...don't like the old songs anymore? Maybe they...hate me? I don't know. It was really, really disappointing. At this point, I continue to be at a loss for words. I just feel like those acne-faced boys standing in front of us, who were rocking out to the newer, blander music, while standing confused during the retro interlude. Except, you know, the opposite.

I don't know. I felt really bad. I still feel bad. It just would have been so helpful to be able to hear those amazing songs performed live again. And I know, it is just SO emo to be saying all this. Dare I say that the three of us cried a little bit on the drive home, listening to the old favorites on Esther's iPod? "They were better before their third album came out." "I liked them when they were underground." "They suck now that they sold out." "They don't care about their fans anymore." So, yeah...I get it. This whole post is pretty embarrassing. But goddammit I love that music. So much. And I just miss it, is all. So I'm going to keep listening to it until I feel better. Old school...

mewithoutYou lead singer playing the accordion

Thrice in action

Jesse Lacey


Sonia said...

wow - you sound incredibly bummed. and i totally understand... but think about this.

Favorite weapon came out in 2001, over 6 years ago, when these kids were in high school. Deja came out over 3 years ago.

Do you think these songs mean the same to them then they do now? As an artist, one hopes to develope, and thus one's newest material is what is exciting and fun. As much as fans may want to hear Jude Law, put yourself in their position - maybe they're a bit sick of playing it? Playing live is part of their art - and they want to be proud of what is put out there. Brand new is great - becuse every album is different - that makes them real artists, as opposed to people who create what is already popular to make a buck.

Sure, you wanted to hear the old songs. But would you really have much respect for a band that hasn't evolved since they were teenagers? It's tough, but playing live isn't necessarily about pleasing the fans. It's about creating art that is meaningful to the artist, as well. Sometimes the two are mutually exclusive.

Kat said...

Thanks for your comment, Sonia! I know, everything you said makes perfect sense - and I guess that makes it even more embarrassing how bummed out I was! It's pretty evident even between Favorite Weapon and Deja how different the musicians had become, and that is a good thing. I'm sure they're far more in love with the new music than I am.

Perhaps my problem was going in to the show with too much nostalgia on my shoulder? I agree with what you said that "playing line isn't necessarily about pleasing the fans." I got that vibe from Regina Spektor too, a few nights prior.

Did you get a chance to see Brand New on this tour?