A journey to tucked away McFerson Commons for PromoWest Fest’s final night of its inaugural year was a journey to a little pocket of my adolescence.
My older brother was a big Modest Mouse fan when he was my age. The co-headliner’s alternative rock sound with blues infusions translated well to the stage. Bright, primarily primary colored lights lit up their set. The band’s strong stage presence for relatively lowkey songs showed off its seasoned experience, which only comes from performing for over two decades. I enjoyed their set the same way I enjoyed my brother playing “Dashboard” on his guitar. It was familiar in its own funky way, but it wasn’t strongly tied to me.
There was another band Sunday night which had that tie for me: co-headliner Brand New.
Lead singer Jesse Lacey is a Tumblr god.
Or, at least he was when my 13-year-old self inhabited the blogging website. Anytime one of my pseudo internet friends was able to see Brand New perform, I was jealous. I clung to their every typed word saying what a tortured, artistic soul Lacey was.
Seven years later, Lacey seemed more like an uninterested boyfriend who was trying to break up ever since the relationship started. After all, the band does sell shirts proclaiming “Brand New: 2000-2018.”
The band didn’t start with a bang, but rather the whimper of “Tautou,” which was promptly interrupted by a loud train whistle from the tracks behind the stage. Lacey and fellow members gave little reaction aside from an extra layer of brooding looks.
Lacey then sang the next three songs from their 2003 sophomore album, “Deja Entendu” — “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” — as if they were simultaneously wafting smoke from his lips and a fire he wanted to extinguish immediately. He churned the words out quickly but with little emphasis, inflection or desire.
Even “Mix Tape,” the ultimate “we’re breaking up and you suck” song, felt flat and uninspired.
Brand New’s latest song, “I Am A Nightmare” felt most like the band’s debut album “Your Favorite Weapon” — which “Mix Tape” is off of — and did bring energy in its inherently more poppy beat.
“You Won’t Know” would have been a good ending song as it echoed the smoky wispiness of “Tautou,” but the band needed to play the final two songs — “Jesus Christ” and “Sowing Season (Yeah)” — for all grown up bloggers to feel like Lacey lived up to the hype.
But, as early 2000’s emo as it sounds, maybe Brand New is best enjoyed alone. If the band seems to prefer performing their angst-ridden songs alone in a studio, it should be okay for me to prefer hearing them alone in bed than on a narrow stretch of grass in the middle of the city. None of this “It’s not you, it’s me” nonsense. Brand New, let’s just cut the ties because it’s for the best.