On Sunday, I got to see O’brother for the fifth time, this time at the North Star Bar. But this time was different; this time they were headlining. It was awesome (maybe not so awesome to my eardrums) to see such a talented band kill it for a full set. They sounded phenomenal as usual, and they put on a hell of a show. For the first time ever in my life, I actually headbanged…I couldn’t help it. You just have to completely lose it and rock out when you hear the epic “Lay Down.” The opening band Junius were also really good and are featured in the gallery below.
Junius at the North Star Bar 2/19/12
Junius at the North Star Bar 2/19/12
The view from above: O’brother set up
Micheal Martens of O’brother setting up
O’Brother at the North Star Bar 2/19/12
Tanner, Micheal, and Anton of O’brother
Johnny Dang, guitarist for O’Brother
Tanner, Micheal, and Anton
Tanner Merritt, vocals and guitar for O’brother
Micheal Martens, drummer of O’brother
Johnny Dang, guitarist
Anton Dang, bassist, uses a bow on his bass.
Anton Dang of O’brother. Photo credit: Alissa Ruggieri
All photos were taken by me unless otherwise noted.
Let me briefly discuss my love affair with Brand New before I get down to talking about the show I went to on November 26. I started listening to Brand New when I was in 8th grade. Their album Deja Entendu blew my little 14-year-old mind. I anxiously awaited its follow-up, an effort that took three years to complete. It wasn’t until this time, in the fall of 2006 that I first got to experience Brand New live. It was an acoustic in-store performance at the now defunct Mars Red Records in Haddonfield, NJ. It was amazing, and they lived up to all my expectations. Then, their album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me dropped shortly after and completely changed everything about my relationship to music. I talked about that album briefly before, and I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but that album is still one of my favorite records of all time. It’s very special to me, and it’s perfect in my eyes. The years haven’t changed that like they have my opinions about other albums. Deja Entendu lost some of its magic for me, but I don’t think the Devil and God ever will. It was on one of the Devil and God tours in the spring of 2007 that I first saw Brand New at a proper gig, and it set the bar unbelievably high. That tour featured Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra as support, and it was just perfect. I honestly can say it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. It might even be the best. In the four times I’ve seen Brand New since then, I’ve never had as amazing an experience. They’re always good, and I always love their shows, but that show was the peak for me. Nothing has been quite as good, and I don’t know that anything else will ever reach that level of brilliance, of perfection, of love. Brand New released another album in 2009 which I also deeply love, Daisy. It’s visceral and raw and heavy, but so beautiful in it’s anger and anguish. They haven’t released any new music since then, but the few strings of shows they’ve played this year seem promising. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get something new in 2012.
Now, let’s get to the show I went to last week. The House of Blues show was announced over the summer, and I immediately got tickets (it was a small miracle, since the pre-sale sold out in about ten seconds). No support was announced for the show until very recently. If you read this blog regularly, I think you know I like this band, O’Brother, from Atlanta, Georgia. I think they’re fantastic, and I’ve written quite a lot about them these last few months. They announced they would be opening for Brand New on this Atlantic City date. My jaw literally dropped when I read that tweet. I mean literally. I couldn’t believe that the little band that I’d essentially watched grow up would be opening for Brand New. A week or so before the show, mewithoutYou announced that they would also be opening. Continue reading
A lot happened in the small realm of music I cover on this blog in the last few days, so I present you with the first conglomeration post for this blog. There will surely be more in the future.
Garden Window album art
Last week, O’Brother, who I’ve talked about several times on this blog, digitally released their debut full-length album, Garden Window. As beautiful as it is fiery and visceral, the hour long record shattered my expectations. Even after hearing songs from Garden Window live and interviewing Michael Martens about the album, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I went into my first listen of Garden Window with my expectations dangerously high and was completely blown away. The record engulfs you in a wall of furious sound that immediately drags you in. Each time I’ve listened to Garden Window, I’ve heard something completely different, something that I did not hear on previous listens. If you want to hear the intense heavy and experimental record for yourself, you can buy the album digitally on iTunes or Amazon, or pre-order the gorgeous vinyl version or CD here.
The Philadelphia based experimental band mewithoutYou have been added to the line-up for Saturday night’s Brand New show at the House of Blues in Atlantic City. O’Brother will be opening, followed by mewithoutYou, then Brand New. It’s going to be an amazing line-up and awesome night of music, so if you can find a way to get into that sold out show, I strongly encourage it.
Thrice’s lead singer and guitarist, Dustin Kensrue, has announced via the band’s website that after a final spring tour, Thrice will be going on hiatus. Kensrue assured fans that Thrice were not breaking up, merely taking a break from being a full time band. You can read his statement here.
My modest collection of Devil and God vinyl variants.
Lastly, today is the 5th birthday (or anniversary, if you prefer to call it that) of an album I hold very close to my heart, Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. When that album was released five years ago today, I was only 16 years old. My taste in music was still developing, and I can honestly say that the Devil and God totally changed my musical taste forever. The way I perceived music was turned upside-down by that record. I could write volumes on Brand New and this particular album (I consider it their best work thus far), but I’ll keep this short and sweet. It’s an album that means a lot to me, an album that effected my life in different ways, an album that brought me closer to some very important people in my life, and an album that you should listen to if you’ve never heard it. Maybe you won’t like it, maybe you will. I think it’s a heartbreaking and beautiful masterpiece, and that hasn’t changed in the last five years.
On October 13, I had the privilege of seeing Thrice live for the 8th time. The lineup featured Moving Mountains, O’Brother–whom I’ve written about before–and La Dispute opening. All four bands put on incredible shows, but O’Brother and Thrice stood out in my opinion. Not only did I get to attend the mind-blowing show, but I also was lucky enough to get to see Thrice soundcheck before the concert and meet the members of the band, courtesy of Invisible Children, a charity that I’ll discuss in greater detail in my next post.
The following pictures were mostly taken from the balcony at the Electric Factory where the concert was held.
After the show, Dustin Kensrue, vocalist and guitarist for Thrice, played an acoustic set outside the Electric Factory to raise money for Invisible Children. Here’s a video from that performance of Dustin playing “Disarmed,” a new song from Thrice’s latest record, Major/Minor. Video taken by Matt Hovern.
Going to a show and falling in love with the opening band, and I mean the very first opening band, is a pretty rare thing. I can only recall it happening to me once, when I saw O‘Brother open for Manchester Orchestra in April 2010. I had heard of O’Brother and had listened to their The Death of Day EP, but seeing a band live can often make or break your opinion of them. Despite being a relatively new band with little touring experience, O’Brother thoroughly impressed me. I understood why Manchester Orchestra signed O’Brother to their record label, Favorite Gentlemen, and why they took them on the road. A year later, I saw O’Brother open for Manchester Orchestra again. The year of relentless touring that had passed had certainly made its mark. You simply couldn’t dismiss O’Brother this time, you couldn’t ignore them as they filled the venue with an enormous wall of sound. After that performance I realized that the Atlanta, Georgia experimental rock band had evolved into something far greater than just an opening band with a 20 minute set. Their first full-length album is slated for a November 2011 release on Triple Crown Records, and it’s shaping up to be one of my favorite releases of the year. O’Brother are currently on the road opening for Thrice along with Moving Mountains and La Dispute. You can catch them at the Electric Factory in Philly this Thursday, October 13, and at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Friday, October 14. Be sure to get there early though–O’Brother and Moving Mountains are alternating for who plays first each night.
O'Brother. Photo by: Christy Parry Photography
I got the amazing opportunity to talk to Michael Martens, O’Brother’s drummer about the band and their new album.
Question: Your debut full length album, Garden Window, will be released on Triple Crown Records next month. The song you’ve released from it, “Machines Part I” has a truly epic sound. Does the rest of the album have the same huge feel to it?
Answer: The album is pretty diverse. There are a lot of huge moments, but there are also a lot of really quiet, intimate moments (and then everything in between). We wanted to get louder and softer on this record, if this makes sense.
Q: Tell me about the new album. It seems like, although O’Brother still has a relatively small fan base, there is a considerable amount of hype concerning the record. You’ve got to work with some amazing people on it. I got really excited when I found out that Mike Sapone was going to be mixing it because Brand New’s “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me” is one of my favorite records of all time and he worked on that, and I’m just a big fan of his work in general.
A: Working with Sapone was great. He really was one of the only people we could think of that would be perfect to mix this record. The tracking process was great. Robert McDowell [of Manchester Orchestra and Gobotron] did the majority of the record and I worked on things like overdubs, auxiliary percussion, and extra ear candy. Also, I was able to track the entire last song, “Last Breath.” It was a huge learning process for all of us.
Michael Martens, drummer of O'Brother. Credit: O'Brother's Facebook
Q: I’ve seen you perform twice with Manchester Orchestra in April of 2010 and again in May 2011, and I noticed a big difference between those two performances. Partially, I’m sure, because you had a lot more experience and gained more confidence by the time you came around this year, but I also felt like you guys have found your sound. Would you agree with that?
A: Completely. You have no choice but to learn a ton when you tour as much as we have been. We try to take everything that our peers have to say to heart. There are a lot of people that help us learn from their past mistakes, coupled with us learning from the mistakes that we make on our own. The past few years have been exciting for us and we are all in a better place because of them.
Q: At least in terms of where you’re playing in Philadelphia (The Electric Factory vs. the TLA or Trocadero), the tour you’re on now with Thrice is the biggest you’ve done yet. How does it feel to be playing at these large venues?
A: Sometimes it’s overwhelming. However, we have learned to find some level of comfort on these stages. It was a learning process at first but it’s sick to look out from a stage the size of the ones we have been playing and see so many people hopefully enjoying their evening.
Q: What are some of your favorite bands to tour with?
Q: Do you have any favorite releases of 2011 so far?
A: Touche Amore‘s Parting The Sea Between Brightness and Me, Thrice’s Major/Minor, La Dispute’s Wildlife, and TV On The Radio‘s Nine Types of Light.
Q: I was wondering if dream catchers have any particular meaning to you guys. You make them and sell them, and they’re also present on some of your other merch. Is there a deeper meaning behind the association with them?
A: Really it started off as a joke. Anton and Johnny [members of the band] are Vietnamese and they kept on getting mistaken for Native American. One day Aaron [another band member] bought Anton a dream catcher from a gas station and it just sort of evolved in to what it is for us today. We usually tell people we put them on our amps to filter out the bad notes.
Listen to “Providence” by O’Brother from The Death of Day here: