Vicar Street is buzzing tonight. This evening’s show, Brand New, is rather comfortably sold out. The touts out front are making a killing and the attendees are decked out in a multitude of attires ranging from well worn tees to freshly pressed school uniforms. The anticipation is pabalate as this is the first time the New York punks have visited the Republic in many years. The group also haven’t had a major release since 2009’s Daisy and have only recently released any kind of output, the single ‘Mene’. Yet, as evidenced by the crowd, Brand New are able to inspire that same kind of devotion that Iron Maiden or The Grateful Dead successfully held. They’re the sort of group for which a rather sizable segment of the crowd will start piling into the main area as soon as the doors open, so that they might catch a slightly better glimpse of frontman Jesse Lacey.
With this kind of obsessive fanbase against them, the warm-up act, UK punks Basement (above), have got a herculean task ahead of them. This being the group’s first time back in Dublin since their 2014 reformation, they waste no time reminding us spectators just how good they are. Kicking off with a couple of cuts from their last LP, Colourmeinkindness, the band sound incredible. Throughout the set they are never anything but tight and powerful, driving large swaths of the audience into a complete frenzy. A decent section of the people here seem to be avid Basement fans, evidenced by the rapturous reception, but for many they are something that impedes Brand New from taking the stage. The sequencing of the setlist was an unfortunate misstep as some of the tracks sound a tad too close to one another for comfort. However, when the group launch into ‘Covet’, the set closer and ultimate highlight of the show, they pretty solidly cement their status as one of the UK’s top punk bands and make their disbandment years all the more frustrating.
A little bit of time after Basement exit, the room begins to swell to capacity as out of the woodwork emerge a hoard of Brand New fans. It’s sweaty, tight and dense with anticipation. The stage is decked out in flowers and lights shaped like satellites, or, as they should be known, sate-lights. Every movement of the roadies is met with a tumult of voices. The suspense builds to a fever pitch until the band casually walk on and start playing ‘Mene’. What follows for much of the next hour is an onslaught of sound and vision as an incredibly well honed and meticulous group fire out hit after hit while the light show shocks and awes the crowd into submission.
Frankly, the experience as a whole is deeply affecting and its light show is easily one of more visually striking shows to hit Vicar Street in as many years. The crowd are lapping up every single note and howling back to nearly every word. Even if you don’t know the words, you can’t help but yell along with everyone else. The atmosphere is infectious as bodies surf overhead and people pogo aplenty. The setlist is peppered with cuts from every record with God and the Devil… and Deja Vu… getting the most time in the sun. ‘Seventy Times 7’, ‘I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t’ and ‘Sic Gloria Transit’ all sound incredible and were it not for a unfortunate lag in the middle of the set, it’d be untouchable. The show puts everyone through the ringer before concluding with the ideal one two punch for its encore, ‘Jesus’ and ‘Sowing Season’, which simply floor whatever part of the audience is left standing.
It’s the kind of performance that’ll convert non-believers; the kind that almost justifies the cult-like deification of the band and leaves you eagerly checking the calendar, counting down the days you can do it all again. Will Murphy
Photos by Liam Kielt