Jesse Lacey / Kevin Devine / Brian Bonz - live in Brooklyn (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Jesse Lacey / Kevin Devine / Brian Bonz

live in Brooklyn (2008)

live show

While it's bound to produce some scoffing from those on this site that actually fit Max Bemis' interestingly worded stereotype, Jesse Lacey's cover of Jawbreaker's "Accident Prone" is goddamn incredible. Sure, I'm biased; Lacey's band, Brand New, has basically cemented itself in a short list of my all-time favorites, while my love for Jawbreaker nearly meets that length. I find "Accident Prone," in particular, to be one of Blake Schwarzenbach's best songs in an already devastating catalogue. So when I first heard an MP3 of Lacey's version, played live at a solo show in Farmingdale, NY at The Downtown in October 2004, I was absolutely floored -- even if Lacey mildly flubs one of the words. (Check it out here.)

I guess my point here is, I absolutely had to see Lacey live here at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and the fact that he paid that song such a loving and well-executed tribute to one of my favorite songs off all-time only made me want to see him more. Granted, the chance of him playing it tonight was rather slim, but seeing stripped down versions of the darker moments from The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me and acoustic takes on 'classics' was alluring enough.

Local boy Brian Bonz was up first with a solo set. Just before he introduced himself, someone called out, "Jew-fro!" That just about summed up Bonz's physique -- he looked like he just came from a casting call for "Freaks and Geeks." But the dude had the voice of an angel, one that strongly resembled another friend of the Brand New circle: Andy Hull, of Manchester Orchestra. Overall, he played a surprisingly compelling 28-minute set that consisted of healthy folk and indie pop flourishes with his rather pretty voice leading the charge, like "Edison Is Constantly on Fire" and his closing cover of Broken Social Scene's "Superconnected." He was occasionally helped out by Lacey, Kevin Devine and bandmate Mike Strandberg.

Next was Kevin Devine himself, who played probably the second-best set I've seen him play (can you really beat being on a moving boat?). He began with "My Brother's Blood," with its incredible bridge where Devine took a step back and just howled his lungs out. Bonz and Strandberg then came out to help with "Yr Damned Ol' Dad," during which Devine became clearly amused and puzzled when someone tried to start a clap-along. Later, when he strummed the opening chords of "Sweet Child o' Mine," encouragement from the crowd and Bonz and Strandberg playing along ended up leading the band a few minutes into the song; they were all clearly having a great time. Devine interestingly altered a lyric in the excellent "No Time Flat" to address the possibility of the U.S. invading Iran. He also threw in a new jam, which found assistance from Bonz, Strandberg and Lacey. It was a stunningly epic narrative -- described by Devine as "a nightmare song" -- much unlike his other material, lyrically; it's from his forthcoming album, Brother's Blood, which he said he just wrapped up work on. Again, a great set; Devine's voice only seems to be getting stronger and lyrically he seems to be becoming more and more varied.

Set list (8:25-9:17):

  1. My Brother's Blood
  2. Yr Damned Ol' Dad
  3. ?
  4. Longer That I'm Out Here
  5. Sweet Child o' Mine (Guns N' Roses cover - just intro, first verse and chorus)
  6. Just Stay
  7. Another Bag of Bones
  8. No Time Flat
  9. new song
  10. Tomorrow's Just Too Late
  11. Ballgame
Twenty long minutes later, Lacey walked onto the stage and immediately went into his first three songs with creative and clean segues among them. "Untitled 01" (which has an awful lot of YouTubed fan covers for a song that was never actually properly released) was a nice surprise as opener, but completely fitting. Following it was "The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot," and then a spot-on turn of Modest Mouse's "Trailer Trash." The audience even knew when to shout back "FACE!", which elicited a smirk from Lacey. On this, Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" and Neutral Milk Hotel's "Two-Headed Boy" (awesome), Lacey would try and adopt the voices of the original singer; although his Boss was pretty much just Lacey with way more twang, the other two were good impressions, and it was neat to hear him change up his delivery. I guess I'm not the only one who does for car sing-alongs...and otherwise.

The other three guys came out for "Luca," which might've been the prime highlight of the set. The ensemble played a minimal but still haunting version, with Lacey showing careful restraint during the explosion towards the end when he would normally scream "--where you been?"; he instead reared back and sang the lines in that same breathy manner. Bonz and Strandberg left after that, but Devine stayed to help on "Play Crack the Sky" and the Bruce cover, the latter of which found its opening lines causing a very audible gasp from one very psyched girl in the crowd.

Lacey needed help from the crowd remembering how the second verse to "Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't" went. My advice? Just play something else if you don't have it down pat. The song's great, but I wouldn't mind the space being filled by something we all haven't heard ad nauseum.

"Jesus" was naturally countrified with a full-band delivery, as he's been doing at solo shows, while they played the fantastic "Cotton Crush" late in the set. Though I was aching for "Accident Prone" and the rest of the crowd for "Soco Amaretto Lime," Lacey chose to close with "aloC-acoC."

The lights remained off and the audience stayed put after Lacey had left, but there was no encore -- even when the door next to the stage opened almost a dozen times with no one walking through it. It might've been just a draft, but it's more likely that someone was teasing the crowd, whose vocal excitement rose and died with each opening of the door.

Set list (9:37-10:50):
  1. Untitled 01
  2. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot
  3. Trailer Trash (Modest Mouse cover)
  4. Jude Law and a Semester Abroad
  5. Luca
  6. Play Crack the Sky
  7. Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen cover)
  8. Moshi Moshi
  9. Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't
  10. Two-Headed Boy (Neutral Milk Hotel cover)
  11. Jesus
  12. Cotton Crush (Kevin Devine's)
  13. Degausser
  14. aloC-acoC
But their minor disappointment was no metaphor. It was an expectedly great show, and one that just about makes up for me missing The Revival Tour and not getting a date for Where's the Band?.