The summer that Deja Entendu came out, my friend Gabe and I drove to St. Louis to see Brand New play at the Creepy Crawl, which was a super small, kind of crappy, kind of awesome, now defunct, music venue. We were among the first people outside of the venue that morning. We waited there for hours as our group of BN fans grew.
Conversations came easily:
“I don’t know. I think I actually like this new album better than Your Favorite Weapon. Yeah, I know, it’s that good.”
“Do you think any of the songs are directed at Taking Back Sunday?”
“My favorite song is Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows right now, but I’m sure it will change. What’s yours?”
At this point, it was still too early for anyone to be able to recite the screamed lyrics in the bridge of “Guernica.” We didn’t know the inside joke that led to the song title for “Play Crack the Sky.” No one even had a tattoo yet of the now iconic spaceman.
The album had only just been released, it felt special and fresh, but I don’t think any of us were sure just what this album would mean to us in the years to come.
Later in the afternoon, a white passenger van pulled into the parking lot behind the venue. “It’s Brand New!” Someone said, but a few of us were unsure, maybe it was just Senses Fail or the Beautiful Mistake or someone less substantial. We couldn’t really see and no one wanted to lose their spot in line.
Our small group on the front sidewalk watched through the window of the Creepy Crawl as Brand New loaded in their own gear. “There’s Jesse,” someone whispered. That someone may have been me.
The guys set their gear up on stage. They stood as a group as they took the prerequisite instructions from the venue’s sound guy. “Bass drum.” Thump, thump, thump. “Snare.” Pop, pop, pop. “Floor tom.” And so on. After going through the routine, they then ran a three song sound check: Guernica into Quiet Things into Jaws Theme Swimming.
It was the last three of these that really got me. In the week or so since I had gotten Deja, its track 7 had yet to grow on me. But watching them perform it to an empty venue, save for those of us huddled around the front window, gave me chills. They were really into it. Thrashing about during the choppy bridge riff, Lacey seeming like he really meant it when he sang: “We learn as we age/We’ve learned nothing.” I felt it then. Still do.
Around 5-6pm, the venue’s doors opened. They informed us that the show was sold out so we better hoped we ordered our tickets online last night. This was no problem for most, but for Gabe and I it was devastating. We had never had to order tickets online before. What does he mean it’s sold out? We’d been waiting all damn day.
“Don’t worry,” I told Gabe. “Surely someone will be selling some extra tickets.”
It was no worries for me as I did get a ticket from someone within minutes. Gabe told me to head on in. He would get a ticket too and meet me inside soon.
Hold up—I’m taking a time out from writing this to try to get tickets to the Chicago show
Update: Tickets aren’t on sale until 12 central. I thought it was eastern. I reset my alarm. We’re good.
So I was in the packed, hot venue by myself, watching the first band, which was definitely called the Beautiful Mistake. I wasn’t too into it. I kept looking to the door to see if Gabe had made it in yet. He hadn’t. As Sense Fail began setting up, I decided to make a plea to the doorman to let my friend in. We had money. There was room. We had waited so long. Please. It wouldn’t hurt anything.
The door guy shook his head. Wouldn’t even hear it.
Looking back, I am not sure if I did the thing where I looked from the stage to the door and then back again as I made up my mind about what I should do, but for the sake of this nostalgic thing, I’m going to say I did just that.
I looked from the stage to the door then back again. I couldn’t let Gabe wait outside for the whole show. That wasn’t fair. I couldn’t do that, could I? Yeah, he probably wouldn’t mind. No. No. That would be a jerk move. I started toward the door. “If you leave, you can’t come back,” the door bro yelled over the noise of the room. I just kept going.
Gabe and I left the venue. We went to downtown St. Louis, walked into several of the hotels, taking their elevators up to the top floors so we could look out at the city. At one of the hotels, we ran into a youth group that was there for some conference or something. We made small talk like we were there for that same reason. Then we got in my car and drove home listening to Deja Entendu the whole way on repeat.
Yesterday, Brand New fans started getting obscure CD-Rs in their mail with a single 61 minute track. I followed along online the best I could while at work. Keeping up with the essential Twitter accounts: @brandnewrockfan and @BrandNewArchive.
Multiple group chats started buzzing on my phone:
“Is this really happening?”
“I DON’T KNOW IM FREAKING OUT!”
“I love Brand New this is so awesome.”
“Is it new music? Are we sure?”
“This is so dumb. This better not be Shone again.”
“Did you guys get anything in the mail?”
“Nope. I’ve already checked. Three times.”
An hour later,
“Apparently it is for sure Brand New.”
“SCIENCE FICTION. The album is called Science Fiction.”
“Someone’s streaming it on Facebook Live.”
“I don’t want my first listen to be that horrible sound quality.”
“I’m listening now. It’s definitely Jesse singing. The first song is pretty chill.”
“DON’T TELL ME ANY DETAILS UNTIL I CAN LISTEN FOR MYSELF YOURE SPOILING THIS FOR ME.”
Then around 3:20-ish,
“Holy shit! Available for Immediate download!”
“What?! Where? Link?”
“Check your email!”
And so on. I left work a little early, went on a drive and then a walk. I listened twice before I discussed it with any of my friends.
Even then, my review was sparse. “I love it. I was always going to love it. I know that much. But it’s worthy of that love,” I texted to my friend Major.
“I do too. It’s so tender, loud, and weird,” Major responded. And I think that’s as accurate as a simple description can be.
It’s still too early to know what this new album will mean to us in the years that come. What new heights will it take us to? What disappointments will it help us overcome? How many late night drives with friends will it soundtrack? What songs will lead to new realizations? What lyrics will stick with us for the rest of our lives?
I don't know yet.
I'm sure there's a piece to be written about the cultural commentary present on songs like "Desert" or "137" or "Out of Mana" or any of it, especially in the wake of Charlottesville. But right now, my brain is too mush to write that. Or maybe that piece doesn't even need to be written. Maybe these songs speak for themselves. I don't know.
I'm not sure of a lot of things. But I’m sure of this: I am thankful for Brand New.
Okay, tickets go on sale for Chicago in five minutes. Wish me luck.
Update: Chicago’s ticketmaster site either wasn’t working or was legit sold out. So after a quick, possibly rash decision, I guess I’m going to Baltimore this fall.
 I think this was one of the other bands on the tour with them, but now, I’m not so sure it’s a band at all. Though then again, Beautiful Mistake definitely sounds like something someone would name their band, so I’m sure it’s a band somewhere, but maybe they weren’t on this tour.
 Did they have a the before their name? Was the the capitalized? Should it be? There’s simply no way of knowing.
 If you’re a Brand New fan, go follow these accounts. I don’t know the people behind these accounts but they do a great job and always keep their followers up to date with all things Brand New.
 This was me.
 This definitely wasn’t me. You won’t catch me saying anything bad about Brand New. That would be equivocal of saying something pro-Trump. Nope. No way. Not happening.
 Again, me. No chill here.
 Later last night, I came to realize that I was actually missing the last track on my iPod. In all my excitement, I apparently transferred the download over to my iTunes without making sure I had all of it. Then, this morning, I saw that I was actually missing not one, but two songs. I also didn’t have 137 on my iPod. I had been listening to an incomplete album. I thought the reason the tracklisting skipped from 5 to 7 was that track five was two songs. I thought the Nagasaki lyric some of my friends had mentioned was just something I had overlooked so far. Sometimes I’m not that intelligent. There was a brief moment where I considered never listening to these two songs. I was already so pleased with the album. Plus, since this is very likely the last Brand New album ever, I could always know I had two new BN songs I have yet to hear, much like Damon on Lost saving the last Dickens novel to read before he died. Or JJ Abrams still saving a Christmas present from his youth that he has yet to open. Nah. Both those ideas are stupid. I listened to the songs almost immediately after dragging them over to my iTunes. They’re great. Of course.