Live Review: The Story So Far (December 26, 2015, 924 Gilman Street, Berkeley, CA)

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“The youth are not the future, but it is what they become.”

— Enemy You

I finally made it to Gilman after all of these years. I have been listening to punk rock for nearly 17 years, and had never made it to the legendary performance space in West Berkeley. Perhaps when I was younger, I was into the bands that had outgrown the Gilman vibe. Furthermore, over the past few years, I have spent a considerable amount of time away from the Bay Area. I have been back around for the past few months, and took this opportunity to cross 924 Gilman Street off of the ‘ole bucket list.

Flier

Now, I know what you are thinking. This guy is nothing more than a goddamn, trendy-ass poser!

Indeed, on Saturday night at 924 Gilman Street, I felt a bit out of place upon entering the community center. All around, there was a sea of kids, kids, and more kids. At the ripe age of 30, I thought to myself, “Am I getting too old for this shit?” The short answer: “HELL NO.”

I am older, wiser, and a bit more jaded than the average Gilman attendee. I do not go to as many shows nowadays, but I have not lost touch just yet. I am just a bit more selective; I attend the great shows. Saturday night’s bill just happened to feature Walnut Creek’s own, The Story So Far.

While admiring the landscape at this “DIY, cultural landmark,” I realized that I was standing in the same dingy auditorium where Jesse Michaels and Tim Armstrong had spread “Knowledge and “Unity” amongst the local community. Meanwhile, I stood in the same venue where Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool got their start. And I was, in fact, in the same room where Mike Burkett and Davey Havok  launched their careers. Indeed, 924 Gilman is a Bay Area rock ‘n’ roll institution. It remains a breeding ground for greatness.

The fascinating aspect is that, aside from hairstyles, nothing has really changed in the past 29 years. The global economy is still dictated by which God you believe in. Americans are still politically divided; our education system is still flawed; and violence and corruption are still rampant.

Meanwhile, the kids are still singing along, crowd surfing, and forming circle pits. They are fed up with the status quo, the notion of conformity, and other societal issues.

At 924 Gilman Street, there is no B.S. allowed. No drugs. No alcohol. No graffiti. No stage diving. No violence. No racism. No vandalism. The experience is therapeutic. It is good old-fashioned fun. It is live music for all ages.

It was evident that most everybody in the room came to see The Story So Far. Once U.S. Light Brigade and Culture Abuse (I missed Mobins Child) finished their sets, it was go time. Parker Cannon (lead vocals), Kelen Capener (bass), Kevin Geyer (guitar/vocals), William Levy (guitar), and Ryan Torf (drums) emerged on stage and encouraged the crowd to “get rowdy.” The audience subsequently rushed forward and erupted in unison to the tune of “Empty Space.” The band promptly switched gears and delivered “Nerve,” the lead single from their self-titled album, released in May 2015.

The well-balanced set list featured cuts from all three LPs: the aforementioned The Story So Far, What You Don’t See (2013), and Under Soil and Dirt (2011). New tracks like “Heavy Gloom” and “Distaste” coupled with previous standouts like “Things I Can’t Change,” “Quicksand,” and “Face Value” were received with a great deal of enthusiasm from the sold-out, capacity crowd.

Lacking were classics like “Brevity,” “Mt. Diablo,” and “Rally Cap,” but the band’s professionalism and maturity were on display on this cold December evening. Between songs, Parker and his band mates would clap along with the fans to bid thanks for the overwhelming support from the Bay Area punk rock community.

Frankly, this is what it is all about. It is not about album sales anymore. It is not about going viral. It is about coming together as one, leaving your problems at the door, and simply enjoying yourself for a few hours.

The show ended, as all good things do, after a short encore highlighted by “States and Minds” and “Roam.” The crowd wanted more, but reluctantly filed out of the venue back into the 30-degree weather. As for me, I enjoyed my first time at 924 Gilman Street. I will be back. Apparently, punk rock is not just for kids.

Set List

“Empty Space”

“Nerve”

“Things I Can’t Change”

“The Glass”

“Heavy Gloom”

?

“Bad Luck”

“Distaste”

?

“Face Value”

“Quicksand”

“Framework”

Encore:

“States and Minds”

“Roam”

 

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Brand New

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brand-new

Actually, they’re not brand new. They’ve been around since 2000. Based out of Long Island, New York, they formed during the post-hardcore/pop punk explosion in the late 90s/early 2000s. But, understand, they are not a pop punk band. They are so much more. Each album (they have four) presents a brand new style. And, yes, it’s meant to be ironic.

Sure, I knew about Brand New during high school and college. But I lived in California. I was busy listening to the Fat Wreck/Epitaph sound coming out of SF and LA. You know, bands like NOFX, Strung Out, Bad Religion, Rancid, Lagwagon, and Pennywise. I didn’t live in the Tri-State area – that is, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Sure, I dug Midtown, The Starting Line, The Movielife, and Senses Fail. Meanwhile, Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends (2002, Victory Records) was and forever will be a masterpiece about unrequited love. Hell, Jesse Lacey was a founding member of Taking Back Sunday circa 1999, but an internal feud led him to form his own band. I look back, and I remember when “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” hit the airwaves during my senior year in high school. But other than that, I never really got into Brand New.

Then I lived in New York City for two years.

It’s funny how music has the power to create genre-specific, geographic “bubbles.” One might call them “scenes.” Think of the Mersey Beat in Liverpool in the early 60s, the San Francisco sound in the late 60s/early 70s (i.e. Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead), or the LA sound during the same time period (i.e. The Doors). Meanwhile, you got punk rock in New York City in the late 70s spawned by The Ramones, grunge based in Seattle in the early 90s (i.e. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden), and gangsta rap (i.e. N.W.A, 2pac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg) in Los Angeles around the same time. You get the point. Where’s the next music/cultural explosion? Are we experiencing one now and not even aware?

At any rate, let me run you through Brand New’s discography.

YFW

Your Favorite Weapon (2001, Triple Crown)

Your Favorite Weapon (2001, Triple Crown) is fast-paced, melodic, and very reminiscent of early Blink-182. It brushes on heartbreak, teenage angst, the thrill of exploration, and the joys of being young.

“Jude Law And A Semester Abroad” 

Deja

Deja Entendu (2003, Triple Crown/Razor & Tie)

Deja Entendu (in French, “already heard”) addresses some more serious topics. The record features mix of soft-spoken and harsh vocals, coupled with soaring melodies and complex instrumentation. It’s brilliant. It was 2003, and I think it sounds a lot like The Used (a contemporary band at the time), but it stands the test of time.

“The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows”

Devil&God

The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (2006, Interscope)

My introduction to Brand New was by way of The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me (2006, Interscope). I was really confused. Then I went back to the early material and gradually put things together. It’s my favorite record by far. Lots of different styles going on here. But if you’re just getting into Brand New, don’t start here. You won’t get it.

“The Archer’s Bows Have Broken”

Daisy_(album)

Daisy (2009, Interscope)

Their most recent effort is Daisy (2009, Interscope). This record is intense. It takes a lot of patience. Again, don’t start with this one. It’s like when someone walks into a movie halfway through and wants to know the plot lines thus far. Very rough at the edges, but still some good standouts tracks like “Vices,” “At The Bottom,” “Gasoline,” and “Bought A Bride.”

“Vices” 

I’ve never seen them live. I want to. Really badly. It’s something that I need to do, so I can tell my grandkids, “Yes, I saw Brand New in concert.” Like Baby Boomers tell their grandkids about The Beatles, The Stones, Springsteen, Dylan, and their experiences sliding in the mud at Woodstock.

The music geeks and the industry folks always say, “Eh, Brand New – they’re not that great live.” Yet, Brand New are notorious for making it nearly impossible for fans to gain admission to their shows.

Check out this Tumblr.

“Oh, it hurts to be this good.”

Lucky me, they just announced a string of west coast dates on Wednesday. They are playing August 28 at The Fox Theater in Oakland. Apparently, though, I was a little late to the party. By the time I saw the Facebook post, the exclusive pre-sale through their fan club website had expired. So I think, “Okay, no problem. I’ll snag a pair, maybe three or four tickets on Thursday at noon when they go live on Ticketmaster. But I gotta be quick. Because these babies are gonna go FAST!”

Granted, they are not U2 or Green Day. Sure, they’ll play big music festivals, such as Riot Fest or Boston Calling. But, they don’t play arenas or stadiums. They want to play mid-size venues across the country (~2,500 – 3,000 capacity) – think Irving Plaza in New York City, The Wiltern in Los Angeles, or The Fox in Oakland. They want to cater to the fans in their niche.

They’ve got old fans and (relatively) new ones (like me). They’re past the point in their career where they will have a hit song on the radio. But it doesn’t matter. Word still spreads amongst human beings. Growth is organic. It is not forced.

Ticketmaster is aware of the power of Brand New. The same goes for the promoters, the venues, and the ticket scalpers.

So, Thursday morning is upon us. Die-hard fans stare at their computer screens, ready to go at 11:55am, constantly refreshing the webpage, ready to purchase when the clock strikes 12. I should have been paying more attention at noon. Unfortunately, I had a dentist appointment at 11:30am. I got home at 12:15pm, and it was too late. Yeah, I tried the Ticketmaster mobile app, too, but no luck. It sold out. Or did it?

Currently, there are over 300 tickets available on StubHub (see the screenshot below). Are you kidding me?! There are probably hundreds more on other secondary ticket sites. On StubHub, the cheapest ticket is around $80. The most expensive ticket is $999. Look, no sane person would sell a concert ticket for $999, and no one is crazy enough to buy a ticket for $999. So, inevitably, there are going to be some empty seats at The Fox. And that’s a shame because Brand New are a rare find in today’s rock music scene.

Brand New -- StubHub

Do we blame Ticketmaster’s poor user design? Was it simply an Internet traffic jam? Did the so-called “bots” scoop up multiple tickets and place them on the secondary market? Was I really that late to the party? Did they really sell 2,800 tickets in 15 minutes? Was it an inside job? Did promoters and/or Brand New’s management buy tickets and place them on the secondary market? We’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that every Brand New show is in high demand, so the market economy dictates the price of the ticket.

As a music fan, it’s frustrating. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last. Who knows how much longer these guys are going to be around? After all, they’ve been playing for nearly 15 years.

The real fans simply want access. The rest of the parties – venues, promoters, and scalpers – want to make as much money as possible. And, frankly, it sucks.

Bottom line, Brand New are successful because they keep their audience engaged. The level of anticipation is palpable. They tell a new story through each album. I have a feeling that their live show is pretty awesome, too.

I’ll be at The Fox on August 28, somehow, someway. I’m going to plunk down money for this. This is what life is all about. The experiences. The prices will fluctuate over the next five months. I guarantee it. People’s plans will change. Real fans that cannot make it will sell their tickets at face value. Trades will be executed. Who knows, maybe a second show will be added to meet the overwhelming demand.

In a world where transferable, physical tickets exist, a concert like this will never really sell out. Access is attainable; it’s simply a matter of assigning a proper value to the ticket. Lately, the trend of non-transferable tickets has taken shape. Companies like Ticketfly, Eventbrite, HoldMyTicket, and In Ticketing partner with local venues to establish will-call-only tickets, thereby eliminating the threat of the secondary market.

It probably wouldn’t fit their niche, but if Brand New had instead booked a two-night run at Slim’s (where In Ticketing is a vendor), would I have had a better chance of scoring tickets? Which method will dominate the next 10-15 years? Can the two ticketing options co-exist? Is it healthy for the live music industry as a whole?

Who knows, maybe the naysayers are right. Maybe Brand New are awful live. But, they sure are great salesmen.