There was a "very special guest" opening for the Get Up Kids Friday night at their highly anticipated NYC show, but no one seemed to be sure who it was. The talk I came across said Reggie & the Full Effect, which would have made perfect sense -- James Dewees is already there and sort of broke up his one-man show on a tour last year. I guess that would've been cool to see.
I called the Blender Theatre at Gramercy around 5:00, trying to figure out just who this opener was, though. "Matzoh Ball, 10:00." "Alright, thanks." I hung up and then realized I thought I heard her say Matzoh Ball. No...that couldn't be right, I thought. As I would later find out, I was just about right -- whoever was opening was going by the name Matzoh's Balls (and also, Lando Cal Ripken Jr. Sr.). But I spent the ride into Manhattan that night thinking what band name could possibly sound like "Matzoh Ball."
I actually wore a Brand New shirt to the show, thinking there was little-to-no associations between the bands and it wouldn't be them. Why would it be? It's not as if they were ever even label- or tourmates, or from remotely the same geographic area.
I'd, however, completely forgotten about when Brand New was supposed to play with the Get Up Kids a few months ago at a college show in Alaska before volcanoes pre-empted their plans. This potential pairing became realistic when a friend told me she saw Jesse Lacey hanging out in front; but there was a backlined drumkit for the Get Up Kids erected and one for the openers set up, too, which meant it definitely wasn't a solo artist. Then she saw the Brand New sticker on an amp onstage. Wow.
Their playing was easily one of the best show surprises ever for me. I guess I haven't been on messageboards in the past week or two as often as I used to be, but it was definitely for the better. Brand New innocuously walked out onto the stage at precisely 10:00 and began playing the haunting opening chords to "You Won't Know." The crowd was absolutely dead for half the set, which pulled from 2006's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, but they woke up for a few songs, particularly "Tommy Gun," "Jesus" and "Quiet Things." Of course, a pop-punk frenzy erupted after Lacey asked, "Do you want to hear an old song?" "YEAHHHH!!" went the crowd. "Or a new song?" "Ehhhh." "What about a really old song?" "YEAHHHHH!!!!!!" "Alright, 'Seventy Times 7' it is." Even though I already saw the band play Your Favorite Weapon front to back in this very venue last year, it was cool to see an oldie here again, being closer to the stage and having a little more room from a crowd that, while proving the Get Up Kids and Brand New have plenty of overlapping fans, still were a little staid. A bit of a pit broke out in the middle for this one and the audience seemed sufficiently warmed up. The band added an atmospheric quality to the bridge that connected it to their newer stuff well, then fucked around by playing the intro to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" until Lacey botched that first slower guitar riff ("der ner") before the vocals come in.
Brand New actually sounded great for the entire set and I was stoked to hear the new song live in person. It's called "Trees" (at least on some set lists) and it's a blistering, dark cut that further progresses the propulsive paranoia and complex musical chops of Devil and God ("This song will be on our first record," joked Matzoh's Balls frontman Lacey); I've read some complaints from people that don't like Lacey's straight screaming of the lyrics throughout the song, but I love it. If any band that's on the mainstream/underground fringe is going to revive the mood of fucked-up intensity in modern music, I doubt they're gonna outdo Brand New.
Set list (10:00-10:44):
- You Won't Know
- Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't
- The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows
- Seventy Times 7
A pretty suffocating thrust of people near the barricade, overzealous drunkards and sloppy crowd surfing couldn't ruin what turned out to be an expectedly great set from the Lawrence, KS outfit. They played stuff in the order you might expect them to if you've seen them live before or even heard the Live @ the Granada Theater album. The reactions from the crowd were really predictable, too, with "Campire Kansas" warmly received but a little cold for anything else from On a Wire or Guilt Show. Still, this is an atmosphere whose predictability I've been raring for for a while, now. I was surprised to see the crowd go absolutely batshit crazy for pretty much anything off Four Minute Mile, though, especially "Don't Hate Me," snuck in during the encore.
The irony of definitively grown men under a "Kids" moniker was not lost on the band, as they cracked the occasional joke about it. Matt Pryor looked like your older uncle, but he was sprightly and his voice was still dead-on, grainy, gritty and youthful for every passing sing-along. James Dewees was the polar opposite of his Reggie personality, isolated on stage left with his keyboard and mic, facing the outside side of the stage and never really addressing the crowd. It was cool; he definitely held up his end of the bargain.
Man, though, I think the crowd was severely bummed out when the band chose to close with "Walking on a Wire." Here's the thing; I love that album. It's my favorite Get Up Kids album. That song, in particular, is just incredibly dramatic and pained that it stands out so well on an already great record that reflects and pours emotion out like nothing else in the band's canon (thanks to Pryor's divorce at the time, I believe). So I thought it was a superb finish, if not a bit depressing, but I think I held the minority opinion.
Set list (11:08-12:29)
- Coming Clean
- Action & Action
- The One You Want
- Never Be Alone
- Red Letter Day
- Up on the Roof
- Campfire Kansas
- Holy Roman
- Mass Pike
- No Love
- I'm a Loner Dottie, A Rebel
- I'll Catch You
- Close to Me
- Don't Hate Me
- Ten Minutes
- Walking on a Wire