Review: Brand New captivate a screaming, churning mass of fans at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg
There’s no doubt Jannus Live was the beating heart of downtown St. Petersburg Sunday night, with about 2,000 fans pulsing in the city’s core as they rocked out to alternative rock outfit Brand New.
Tickets to the much-anticipated gig sold out in less than an hour back in May, despite the band ironically not releasing anything brand new in five years.
And fans had to wait a little longer. Just after the lights went down and the crowd grew restless, Olivia Newton-John’s Please Don’t Keep Me Waiting comically played out in its entirety. Then the smokey silhouette of frontman Jesse Lacey appeared behind a flora-wrapped mic stand.
In lieu of busting out hard (which it’d be so easy to do), the band opened with less-known Untitled 01 from 2006 demo collection Fight Off Your Demons. They stayed shrouded in darkness through the beginning of You Won’t Know until drummer Brian Lane was solely illuminated on his first note. You could smell the build to the first break. The percolating crowd was hungry for it and completely erupted when it finally came. Lacey dished out his trademark screams and yelping emo wails like only he can do, and it was only the second song.
It went like that -- the crowd hinging on and releasing at every delicately engineered climax -- through Degausser, Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades, I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light and The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows. Beer cans, shoes, sunglasses and other unidentifiable objects flew across the crowd. Mosh pits and crowd-surfers formed and fell. What a sight it must have been from the stage.
The guts of the show detoured from the much beloved albums Deja Entendu and The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me and touched on Fight Your Demons, Your Favorite Weapon and their last release, Daisy. Playing less-popular songs didn't matter -- the unpredictable, two-car-sized mosh pit continued well through Gasoline, Moshi Moshi and the dual-drummed You Stole.
Sprinkling slower songs into the setlist made sense, as Lacey’s voice had begun to crack and rasp by the time they got to Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t. But the unplanned textures and nuances gave the tracks added depth, especially if you were keen enough to catch some of Lacey’s intended subtle additions (e.g. adding the line “they’re all underwater now” in closer Play Crack the Sky).
A surprise standout sprouted out of the slow-burning Limousine (MS Rebridge), which featured the lead singer from opener Foxing on the trumpet. Visibly in the zone, he was up in Lacey’s face, shouting back the lyrics. The eight-minute track exemplified the entire set: Build, break, fade out, repeat.
One of the loudest and most powerful moments happened in Sowing Season, where everything stopped except Lacey’s amped-up vocal and 2,000 people screaming the lyrical apex with him: “I am not your friend. I’m just a man who knows how to feel. I’m not your friend. I’m not your lover. I’m not your family.” Chills.
Brand New harnessed something enviable: Complete crowd captivation. Fans were too busy bubbling to chat, and the crowd too unstable to wave many smartphones overhead. The audience majority was by and large present, a rare experience seen in a mass of millennials.
The static setlist told a story, as did all the bandmates (except Lane) remaining on the dark side of the light. Their music was bigger than them, and it surged into the beating heart of downtown St. Petersburg, creating an unforgettable sweaty, communal culmination.
I can’t explain why their moody and morbid songs resonate with oft-nihilistic millennials, or why, if they booked another show with no new material, it, too, would sell out. There’s just something about Brand New.
-- Stephanie Bolling, tbt*