The Devil and God are Raging Inside Wallingford

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A ten-year anniversary tour seems like exactly the type of thing that Brand New would be against.  While the band has more or less played the same setlist for the past few years, playing The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me front to back on their current tour seems like something they’d probably skip.  While we still don’t have a new album, this tour was set to be a treat from the start as Modern Baseball and The Front Bottoms were set as openers.  Brand New tours are always special affairs, but having two of the biggest pop-punk and emo bands today open the tour makes it all the more important.

The first thing I noticed about the Oakdale Theatre is that it appears to be a renovated barn or, at least, added to one.  The venue’s lobby is beautiful with four bars and merch located front and center as you walk in.  As we entered the venue, the line for merch was already huge.  Once in the actual theatre, it was impossible not to notice how good everything sounded.  The way that distortion carried in the high-ceilinged venue is ideal for listening.

Modern Baseball’s set leaned heavily on their recent Holy Ghost, but the crowd was most receptive to “Tears Over Beers” and “Your Graduation.”  The Philly-Quartet even treated us to the Sports single “The Weekend” dedicating it to “our friend from Property of Zack.”  While it’s more typical to see MoBo headlining these days, the band still seems humbled by the reaction they stir in crowds.  Brendan Lukens let the crowd sing the first chorus of “Your Graduation” simply letting out a “you all rock.”  While it would be easy for Modern Baseball to just play the hits, playing mostly Holy Ghost songs seemed right especially as Lukens started to get emotional during “Just Another Face.”  It’s not often an opening band elicits a “One More Song” chant from an audience, but Modern Baseball did it.  Anytime seeing them is a reminder to what a special little band they are.

The Front Bottoms’ stage setup was decorated with lamps, a couch, a small tv, a case of PBR, and two seemingly random people sitting on that couch.  While The Front Bottoms are now a pop-punk staple, their stage show was reminiscent of the type of college party you probably first heard The Front Bottoms at.  Even opening with “The Plan (Fuck Jobs)” served as a reminder that they’re a band for college parties.

The Front Bottoms’ music was incredibly catchy and fun, as always.  The band danced around stage with as much excitement playing tracks from their first album as the ones from Back On Top.  The band can still surprise by throwing in a funky breakdown into outro of “Swimming Pool” or telling jokey stories about growing your hair out.  Brian Sella’s lyrics are always front and center when they play.  Sella is incredible lyricist for writing the type of lines that don’t make any sense, but you can completely understand the emotion.  There’s certain lines that inevitably stick out that only Genius can dissect.  That line tonight was:

I can tell that he’s asking her yes or no questions

By the way she’s shaking her head

From left to right, then up and down

Then left to right again

during “Skeleton.”  The audience lit up the same way they had for “Your Graduation” during “Twin Size Mattress” at the end of the set, before Sella mentioned “We’re a band called The Front Bottoms.  Tell all your friends about us.”

Every time Brand New plays now, it is truly something special.  As the band have all but confirmed that their break up in 2018 is inevitable, fans flock to see the Long Island band wherever they play.  I drove an hour for this show.  I had friends from Long Island who traveled three.  I even spotted a Virginia license plate in the parking lot, which is odd since the band plays Fairfax near the end of the tour.  Once the band announced that they would play The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me in full, this tour became all the more interesting.  If Brand New is the Led Zeppelin of emo, then Devil and God is Zeppelin IV.  “Jesus” is one of the best known rock songs of the past fifteen years.  “Limousine” may be the best song Brand New has ever composed.  Devil and God if often cited as Brand New’s best album by fans, and seeing the album performed straight through is always an occasion to be cherished.  I should preface the rest of this by mentioning that this is the second time I’ve seen Brand New in four months, having caught them at Madison Square Garden with Modest Mouse.  The MSG gig was my first time seeing Brand New, and since the breakup is imminent, I’m now making up for lost time.

The switch from the somewhat silly and upbeat Modern Baseball and Front Bottoms to the deathly serious Brand New was truly strange.  While these bands all play the same genre of rock, the posture with which it is presented is starkly different.  Jesse Lacey is not a chatty frontman.  There aren’t any laughs to be had during a Brand New set, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Brand New are nothing like any other pop-punk or emo band.  They’re a force to be reckoned with and as serious as a heart attack in an oft-mocked genre.  Their set in Wallingford only further reaffirmed this.

Brand New played two songs that were absent from the show at The Garden, Deja Entendu’s “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light” and the new “I am a Nightmare.”  Unfortunately, none of the Daisy standards such as “At the Bottom” or “Gasoline” were played.  Ending the first set with “Play Crack the Sky” was a nice touch adding the lyric “For two more years now” before Vin Accardi entered the stage to sing harmonies.  Some more popular songs were missing, but everything played was eaten up by the crowd before a short break.

The first three songs on The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me are staples of Brand New’s setlist.  While it was great to hear the 1-2-3 punch of “Sowing Season,” “Millstone” and “Jesus,” it sent chills through the audience as red lasers soaked the stage, and Lacey uttered, “Degausser, baby.”  When the band really explodes on songs like “Limousine” or “Not the Sun,” it’s hard to not think you’re watching a metal band.  Accardi and Lacey can both shred, and the dual drummers certainly brings a heavy backbone to the rhythm section.

As the set drew to the end, an acoustic guitar was brought out for “Handcuffs,” which suits the end of the album but not the end of a show.  Ending with “Untitled” was a wise move, since it let the band jam on the main riff to “Jesus” as Accardi sat stage right.  Lacey thanked the audience for the past ten and fifteen years before exiting, and the “2000-2018” epigraph adorned the stage.

While the number of Brand New shows is finite, nights like this in Wallingford are celebratory.  There seems to be promise of a new Brand New album, but since they’re unpredictable, we may never see a fifth LP.  Regardless of where the band goes, everyone will remember this night in Connecticut.

Monday Mixtape 10/17: (Bob Dylan, Aimee Mann, Kevin Devine, Black Kids!)

Paul McCartney feat. Rihanna-“FourFiveSeconds”

This weekend saw the wrap up of the Desert Trip festival in Indio, California.  McCartney was probably one of the biggest draws when the festival was announced, but he brought out a special guest who is definitely more suited for Coachella.

 

Aimee Mann-“Can’t You Tell”

The 30 Days, 30 Songs campaign has been a recurring story here at BurgerADay for the past week.  Aimee Mann’s song is easily one of the best songs to come out of it.  It’s a driving number that takes on a much sadder point-of-view that almost forces the listener to emphasize with the Republican Presidential Candidate

 

The Who-“Baba O’Riley”

Another “Oldchella” act.  While The Beatles and Rolling Stones are essentials for any music fan, I always preferred Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon growing up.  It’s hard to find a song as timeless as “Baba O’Riley.”  That synthesizer riff is one of the most iconic in history.

Kevin Devine-“Freddie Gray Blues”

 

As the release of Kevin Devine’s Instigator draws closer, we’ve been treated to the album stream.  Devine did release this track right after the murder of Freddie Gray, and it’s just as haunting.  Devine both acknowledges his white privilege and relationships with cops, and it’s chilling.

Moose Blood-“Honey”

The UK pop-punk outfit has just embarked on a US tour opening for The Wonder Years.  Where their first album had more emo-influence, Blush is sugary sweet pop-punk, and the lead single is probably the best song from the album.  The band is sure to be exciting. 

Modern Baseball-“Phone Tag”

Another tour-opener.  Modern Baseball has just kicked off a tour with Brand New and The Front Bottoms.  While their setlist mostly features takes from the excellent Holy Ghost, I’ve been revisiting their B-sides.  This reworking of “It’s Cold Out Here” is a nice change of pace, and the altered lyrics at the end are much better than the original.

Brand New-“Not the Sun”

Brand New has been playing Devil and God front to back on their current tour, forcing me to revisit the album.  While the most popular tracks never fail to entertain, I’m pleasantly reminded how great songs like “Welcome to Bangkok” or “Not the Sun” are.

Bob Dylan-“Desolation Row”

The biggest music news story this week has been about the Nobel Prize winner.  Dylan’s poetry is perhaps best summed up in this song, and here’s a video from this weekend’s Desert Trip.

Black Kids-“Obligatory Drugs”

Black Kids are back with this fun-as-hell track.  “Obligatory Drugs” is a dancey, indie-rock song with an undeniable hook.  I’m definitely in.

Slaughter Beach, Dog-Welcome

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In a similar vein as The Mountain Goats’ All Hail West Texas, Slaughter Beach, Dog’s Welcome tells different perspectives of people all in the same place.  Whether the songs are full band romps or stripped back acoustic numbers, Jake Ewald brings a textured town to life in his first solo effort.

About midway through Welcome, Ewald sings:

                        My friends don’t need jobs

                        Cause they all sell drugs

                        Spending Fridays setting fires

                        With their college degrees

                        And I think to some degree

                        They are more practical than me

Just like on All Hail West Texas, Jake Ewald does what John Darnielle does on a song like “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton;” he shows that these characters are real.  Just like every Mountain Goats fan knows a Jeff and a Cyrus, Ewald and the audience all have friends selling drugs, pissing away college degrees.  While at times the album seems dystopic, Ewald shows a love in dysfunction through chugging anthems like “Monsters” or “Mallrat Semi-Annual.”  “Monsters” sees an older brother sticking up for a defenseless younger sister at the end, in a fond memory in a now deteriorating home.  “Mallrat” shows the perspectives of people on a first date, both anxious out of spite and nerves.

These guitar heavy, up-tempo songs are definitely some of the most lyrically intricate and visually interesting songs where Ewald sings about fonts on gravestones, New Year’s Eve and “Halloween in Hell.”  Some of the more tender moments come from the softer songs.  “The Politics of Grooming” is reminiscent of Garth Stein’s novel The Art of Racing in the Rain.  The song is seemingly told from a dog’s perspective as his owner watches the world she’s come to know fall apart and die around her.  “Toronto Mug” and “Toronto Mug II” are both about what it’s like to be stuck in the sort of decrepit town that Slaughter Beach is.  Whether you’re searching for a DVD or “counting cracks on Essex Street,” you only have a souvenir mug from a foreign city to provide you with a real sense of escapism.

Musically, Ewald is able to go many different places naturally on this album.  Whether it’s palm-muted power chords on “Mallrat Semi-Annual,” classic rock melody on “Drinks,” sweet finger-picking on “Bed Fest” or the funky, math rock of “Forever” nothing is out of place.  There are moments that bare some resemblance to songs like “Hiding” or “Note to Self” from Modern Baseball’s Holy Ghost, Jake Ewald’s main outfit.  Still, this sort of concept album has more to do with The Weakerthans or the Mountain Goats than it does with Brand New or The Front Bottoms.

While Welcome doesn’t have the confessional lyrics we’ve come to know from Ewald and Modern Baseball, it does have the honest quality that storyteller-songwriters always need.  In creating a fictional work in its own universe, he’s created characters that reflect real people as well as his more personal work does.  It seems as if the biggest running theme in Slaughter Beach, Dog’s songs is paralysis in small town life.  It’s an extremely pop-punk sentiment on an album that owes very little to pop-punk.  It’s a vastly personal exploration that can be both hilarious and heartbreaking within its 28 minutes.

Monday Mixtape 9/19 (Against Me!, The Front Bottoms, Kendrick Lamar)

Against Me!-“12:03”


Shape Shift With Me has been in heavy rotation for me over the weekend, and the second track is easily one of the most fun and catchiest.  Laura Jane Grace captures all the excitement and anxiety of the start of a new relationship.  It’s very similar to the Searching for a Former Clarity song “Pretty Girls.”  Also, Laura’s calling out Topshop for that $700 Against Me! jacket is punk as fuck.

 

Beach Slang-“Noisy Heaven”


            I thought about including a song from Here, I Made This For You, but with the release of A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings coming up, I’ve been revisiting Beach Slang’s first album.

 

The Front Bottoms-“Tighten Up”


New Jersey’s The Front Bottoms have sprung two b-sides from Back On Top onto the internet, and it’s fucking awesome.  The band will be touring with Brand New and Modern Baseball this Fall, followed by their own Champagne Jam 2016 in New York City.  Hopefully this and “Joanie” will be played at each show.  It’s classic catchy and bizarre TFB.

 

Motion City Soundtrack“Pulp Fiction”


Motion City Soundtrack may have played their final show this weekend, but I’m not ready to let go.  This My Dinosaur Life is an easy favorite deep cut from a band that won’t soon be forgotten.

 

Kendrick Lamar-“m. A. A. D. city”


            I’ve been reading Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, and his poetry has had me revisiting some of my favorite artists, and I just read his poem “The Author Explains Good Kid, M. A. A. D. City to His White Friend While Driving Through Southeast Ohio.”  Music is obviously very important to Abdurraqib, and he pays tribute to everyone from Pete Wentz and Elliot Smith to Drake and Kanye.

 

Crying-“Wool in the Wash”


I’m getting on the Crying bandwagon a little late, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this track over the weekend.  I’ve gone back and listened some of the chip-rock band’s older work, and this is them at their most realized.  They have the large soaring video game sounds, but with some of the poppier, jingliest work yet.

 

The Hold Steady-“Chips Ahoy”


The second of three “Wish I was at Riot Fest” entries, I’m just upset about not seeing The Hold Steady this weekend at Riot Fest, because I missed Riot Fest.  The only other options I’m truly bummed about are…

 

The Misfits-“Hybrid Moments”


            Here’s to crossing my fingers for a Misfits tour!

 

Leonard Cohen-“Chelsea Hotel #2”


Following terrorist attacks in Chelsea, it seems fitting to play this Leonard Cohen cut a gloomy, rainy Monday.  It’s been raining in New York, and this mellow song about Janis Joplin is fitting.