Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ, is an amazing venue. Primarily a bar/restaurant during most hours, it also hosts shows in a small little room (maximum capacity about two-hundred standing). The performances are always intimate, and this stop on the Jesse/Kevin tour was no exception.
Grace Read opened the evening with four of her own songs performed solo with only a piano as accompaniment. The sister of Kevin Devine, she shares his ability to craft solid songs, and her voice is absolutely incredible. She spent most of the time talking (her own admission, “I don’t have many songs so I spend time telling jokes”), but when she played it was delightful. Particularly notable was her final song about a battle between a fire-breathing dragon and soldiers who had to fight it. She is certainly a singer/songwriter I will be on the lookout for.
Kevin Devine arrived on stage a few minutes later, and kicked off the evening with a handful of new songs, including a beautiful song about a boy and his dog. Jesse Lacey walked through the crowd and hopped on stage and joined Kevin for “Cotton Crush”, and so the evening began with two best friends singing and playing guitar, enjoying every moment of it.
Kevin performed very few older selections, using the time mostly to try out new material (which is definitely better than his older material). Jesse played a lot of Brand New songs:
Soco Amaretto Lime
Tautou (performed by Kevin Devine after “Ballgame”)
The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot
Me Vs. Mardona Vs. Elvis
Play Crack The Sky (“I need to stop writing songs in G”, said Jesse)
Jesus (a country-infused remix that wasn’t the best way to interpret the song)
Degausser (with “goodbye to drugs” verse)
“I Wrote Your Named And Burned It”
The duo were on stage for more than two hours, and the night was also filled with quite a few covers, including songs by Leonard Cohen and Archers Of Loaf, among others (though the pair skipped out on any Neutral Milk Hotel songs they had been recently performing live).
Kevin performed “No Time Flat”, a self-proclaimed “clumsy” song about the draft and war in the Middle East. Openly political, I think the point Kevin was trying to get across in explaining the song was that he hopes the the draft is re-enacted so that the American public actually begin to care about the conflicts the government is involved in, as opposed to not caring since they’re not the ones fighting. An interesting take on the situation that definitely got Kevin very heated.
It wasn’t a political evening, however, and most entertaining throughout the night were Jesse and Kevin’s hilarious stories and banter with the crowd and each other–the two of them were high, having done peyote with Grace before the show began.
Kevin recounted a (apparently one of many) “Woody Allen story” that involved him being exceedingly high and thinking a wooden door in his apartment was Woody Allen, apparently due to the way his brain verbalizes things on drugs. The pair also shared stories about a game of charades played on drugs, and neither could keep a straight-face telling the story. Though when Kevin asked Jesse why he was laughing on stage, Jesse replied in immediate Billy Murray Steve Zissou style, “I have a rep to keep up…I read that I’m miserable”, at which point he actually started laughing.
When the floor was opened to questions, the questions began as softballs but soon turned quite edgy. Topics covered include:
The lyric sheets — Jesse responded that he was still working on them, and that he wanted them to be absolutely perfect since Interscope didn’t give them room to do it with the record
Major labels — in hindsight, Jesse noted that it was probably a poor decision to join a major label, though it was easiest and most financially secure decision (though he claims to “never have seen a cent” from Interscope)
Stealing music — Jesse openly encouraged everyone to burn Brand New albums, and to also steal music as much as possible; this lead into the comment that he wished people stole “everything” and that being a pirate was “cool” since the big corporations didn’t need your money
AbsolutePunk.net and Jason Tate — while loving the freedom of speech it allows, Jesse commented that its funny so many people post completely ignorant and incorrect statements all the time
Bamboozle — Jesse said the band played at noon “because [they] wanted too”, and that they played Degausser twice for that very same reason, saying that the band “does pretty much whatever [they] want”
Being ready for success — a more serious moment, Jesse thanked the crowd for all the support they have shown him and Brand New, and that he was never ready (and still isn’t) for anyone to listen to listen to the songs he wrote, and that the success the band achieved is still uncomfortable
Pre-show activity — Jesse said that before shows, the band could be anywhere doing anything, and could be playing video games that need to be “put on pause” before just walking on stage
Practicing — apparently, the band doesn’t practice in the same way a typical band does; before playing “Jesus” on late night TV shows, for example, the band played the song once–discussed the mistakes they made–and then played the song live on TV hoping they had all fixed their mistakes
The smaller crowd allowed Jesse to become more personal, and it allowed him to speak to the fans without coming across as arrogant or “miserable”. Many other topics were covered, so hopefully if the tour arrives in your area you’ll get to hear his own words yourself. After concluding the wonderful evening with “Chelesea Hotel #2”, Jesse announced that he would return with his band in October, presumably with Thrice and meWithoutYou.
Post-Note: A lot of the comments about drugs were made in jest by Jesse, Kevin, and Grace; I am just reporting what I heard said.. I regret if this offended any of the performers or their families; the “jokes” were not so clear live.