Welcome to the 2000s nostalgia show, two bands whose most recent release was 2009, come together to face an audience already well out of school and on their second jobs, ready to relive their college days. The nostalgia circuit starts early when you take five year sabbaticals only to wake up facing the death of alt rock on one hand and the rebirth of emo on the other, while you try to figure out who you are.
Both Brand New and Modest Mouse are very good bands, they both have presence, muscle, audacity and power on stage, but neither of them are great bands and their 90 minute sets were more than enough while not being less than a delight.
Saturday was a beautiful day and Forest Hills Stadium, itself closed through the turn of the century till last year after zoning laws and noise laws had made a disaster of their attempts to promote shows in the residential neighborhood, was a better, more dramatic, closer to the stage, horseshoe of a performance space. I hadn’t been there since the 1997 for another proto nostalgia gig featuring Bush, Foo Fighters and Blur, Under a warm summer sun, it heralded the return of what must be included among nyc’s better outside venues. A perfect place to step back a couple of years though Brand New’s singer Jesse Lacey‘s tacit dis “The sun’s finally gone, thank god” suggests we may not all be on the same page here.
Brand New are a one album band in my mind, though they play from all four of their albums in mini-suites. The one I love is 2003’s Deja Entendu towers above the rest of their career as a big time emo statement, a hard rock,tune filled alty emo-y college campus hit in 2003. And while they only play three songs off the album, “Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades”, “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light” and “Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t” are the entire evening highlights though not where the set is at. Seven songs were pulled off The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Of Me, a loud, dramatic affair which certainly lends itself to Brand New’s flair and verve, Soundgarden meets the 21st century hard rock. from odes to Luca Brasi to memento mori’s to dead children, the album and the performance are smokescreen and howling into the night guitar riffs upon guitar riffs. Brand New look the part and act the part of rock stars, they bend to the weight of their songs and spring out and the floor erupted into mosh pit after mosh pit, and folks body surfed to the front of the stage where security (hey Louie!) showed admirable restraint in taking care of them. Lacey is a good lead singer and Brand New owned the night.
But they would own the night. If Brand New are Jimmy Eats meets Soundgarden, Modest Mouse are the Dirty Projectors meets Talking Heads and the word on the tip of your tongue is art rock and more, they are JE and TH without the funk. So it is a little static even though the band can pick up a full head of steam. A friend of mine, former rock nyc writer Marie Lynn, was there and her assessment was Brand New gave her a headache and Modest Mouse were much better than she thought they would be. I certainly agree with her about Modest Mouse, who may be a little too Brooklyn hipsterish for many but on the first two songs of their set “The World At Large” and “Ocean Breaths Salty” sold any doubters even if they didn’t reach the moshers. Singer Isaac Brocker is a weirdo lead singer, talking about living near a tennis court with the mantra “You win, you fucking win”. Oh, Ok! he interrupts the proceedings from time to time to say nothing thrilling but the band themselves were both tight and loose and the new art school highly structured songs lent themselves to polished toneful improvs and tight melodic scrappings. The wall of guitars sound and sonic doodlings never ever took over the sound. Isaac told a joke, the punchline was “I’m just not that emo”. Better live than on record, they performed three new songs that harbor well for their future.
As I started off by noting, both of these bands reached their height in the 00s, both are quite good, both sets were more than fine. And both are not near the true nostalgia circuit. There is still life in the 20 somethings as they flip to their thirties and now it is time for new material.
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