Show Review: Brand New @ The Mann Center 7.12.14

by Terence Cawley (Biology), published August 5th 2014

photos by Brian Cawley

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The intensity of Brand New’s emo-tinged indie rock is arguably only equaled by the devotion of the band’s fans. When Brand New played a sold-out show at Philadelphia’s Mann Center, these two sources of intensity collided with spectacular results. 

Dinosaur Pile-Up opened the show with a grunge-pop sound reminiscent of Nirvana and Weezer. While the young band still seemed to be developing an identity, their set was still enjoyable enough. Man Man, meanwhile, were nothing if not unique. The band members switched between horns, keyboards, guitars, and lots of percussion (including a gleefully absurd amount of xylophone) throughout their performance to scrap together a junkyard approximation of rock and roll that recalled Tom Waits. They played their surprisingly catchy songs with contagious energy, and when fireworks went off over the stage, it felt appropriate despite being unplanned. In its weirdo charm, Man Man’s set felt like a celebration.

The instant Brand New launched into their first song, the abrasive hardcore blast “Vices,” the crowd surged forward against the barricades. Everyone in the front was subjected to omnidirectional pushing, a high human density which prohibited most voluntary motion, and the responsibility of passing along the steady stream of crowd surfers. The band members seemed unfazed by the chaotic crowd, and no one in the band even spoke until Lacey thanked the crowd and praised the opening bands before the final song. Clearly, Brand New just wanted to play their songs without any fanfare.

Brand New grouped the songs from each of their four albums together on the set list, a decision that emphasized each album’s unique character. They started by playing five songs from their most recent album, 2009’s Daisy, which contains some of the band’s darkest, rawest music. Next, they ripped through four songs from fan-favorite Deja Entendu and the song “Seventy Times 7,” the sole representative of their pop-punk debut Your Favorite Weapon. The last six songs all came from the band’s opus, 2006’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, and the final song, “You Won’t Know,” became a nine-minute epic containing an almost unrecognizable interpolation of classic standard “Louie Louie.” Lacey’s vocals were top-notch throughout the band’s 16-song set, fierce without sacrificing any of the expressiveness of his voice. The rest of the band more than matched him; lead guitarist Vincent Accardi’s short riffs and noise bursts gave the songs an extra bite, all while maintaining the poise (and long hair) of a guitar hero. Likewise, the rhythm section, complete with a second drummer, ensured that every beat hit the frenzied crowd’s ears like a sledgehammer.

While most great concerts inspire feelings of elation, Brand New’s tortured music does not lend itself to such positive emotions. Yet Brand New concerts sell out within minutes, and the Mann Center crowd trampled the venue’s grass to dirt in their enthusiasm. What makes Brand New’s music so impactful to their fans is its ability to help ward off demons by enabling catharsis and reminding listeners that they are never alone. Every Brand New concert is an opportunity for the fans to be there for the band that was always there for them. By playing their songs with heart and skill, Brand New ensured the enduring strength of this bond.

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