Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Culture

London's pulling out all stops in preparation for the Olympics. Witness the London Symphony Orchestra performing on a Saturday afternoon in Trafalgar Square.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We all have sizeable scars

Brand New - The Roundhouse, Camden - 12th February 2012

This post and the ones that follow are way overdue. Life got in the way. Also, Blogger changed their interface and quite frankly, I'm not crazy about it.

When I left England in December, I wasn't sure exactly when I would be returning. I didn't know how my budget would go on my American holiday and I was worried I was going to have to do some casual work back home so I could afford the flight back. Late in the year my favourite band announced a London show. I couldn't afford to buy tickets for a show when I wasn't even sure I'd be in the country. So in an attempt to bring me back to my English home asap, J purchased a couple of tickets. It worked. I couldn't stand the thought of having tickets to a Brand New show and not attending. 

When I was in Year 9, Placebo released Without You, I'm Nothing and quickly became my favourite band. They held that position for years and they were one of the reasons I wanted to spend my gap year in this country back when I was 18. Brand New are the only other band I ever reached the same level of obsession with. They're the only band that I buy merch from. Their second album became the album I listened to the most while doing my undergraduate degree. I should have outgrown them, but their subsequent albums demonstrated that the band was growing older at the same time I was. No more cheery pop punk. The albums got darker, much more interesting. 

I've been lucky enough to see them live a few times and they always put on a strong show. However, the experience of seeing them live has been somewhat damaged for me. Damaged by the fact that nothing will ever top the first time I saw them live. It was in 2007. Devil and God had just been released and they playing headlining shows in Australia for the first time. It was a miserable rainy day in Sydney and we were soaked before even getting to the venue. They were a fairly obscure band at the time (In some ways, they still are) but it felt like everyone in the Roundhouse that night knew them, loved them, and had been waiting for years to see them. 

The show was incredible. They came out, ripped through an hour of their first two albums and disappeared for a quick interval. The second set began with Welcome to Bangkok, the band coming on gradually with various members of the entourage joining to contribute to the percussion line. Anyone who was there remembers the moment. Anyone who wasn't can't possibly understand it. The rest of the second half was most, if not all, of Devil and God. I've been to a lot of concerts. Nothing quite matches up to how it felt to hear the songs live for the first time. They closed with You Won't Know. The audio looped, the band wandering off the stage and Jesse screaming You Won't Know into the mic until dropping it and walking off. No bow. No curtain call. There was a moment of silence and then the place erupted. It was the perfect summary of a remarkable performance. I can try and describe it all I want but it won't work. You won't know.

Scott and I got separated midway through the show. I remember finding him outside the venue and not being able to find the words but seeing it on his face, he'd seen what I saw. There's a bootleg of the show floating around on the interwebs somewhere. It's not great, but I'm glad that there's a record. A couple of years ago they toured Aus again and I heard them talk about that particular show during an interview. It sticks in their minds as one of their stand out gigs.

I've seen them several times since, and it's always great, but it never quite compares to the perfect storm of that first show. My focus now tends to be on hearing some of the rarities. Tracks I haven't heard live before. Funnily enough, the London venue this show was at was also called the Roundhouse. The capacity was larger, but the layout was very much like that first show. I was glad for the quality of the venue since I had to stand back further than I'd intended after nearing fainting 5 minutes before they came on. 

There were some absolutely brilliant moments. When I've seen them in the past, Play Crack the Sky (perhaps my absolute favourite song by anyone) was a solo affair. Now Vin joins Jesse on stage for it and it's better for the extra depth. They played Flying at Tree Level, a track from an obscure soundtrack that I've always liked and never expected to see in a setlist. One disappointment? I've never heard Quiet Things live. They played it at the same venue, the night before and took it out of the set for the second show. The revamped versions of the first album tracks are still holding up in the live show, and there was something wonderful about Jude Law and a Semester Abroad being played to a London crowd. 

What did make me sad was that Scott wasn't there with me. We've seen them together four times. His absence made the fifth feel a little incomplete.