Braid

[27 September 2004]

By Shawn Despres


Braid

Photo: Nathan Keay

After six years, three full-length recordings, a whole whack of 7"s, and countless shows, Braid decided to call it quits in August 1999. Bob Nanna, Damon Atkinson, and Todd Bell went on to form Hey Mercedes, while Chris Broach concentrated on forming Lucid Records and playing in the Firebird Band and L’ Spaerow.

Before disbanding, the band filmed their final five concerts and later released a video documenting the farewell gigs entitled Killing A Camera. Looking to utilize modern technologies, Braid worked with Bifocal Media to expand and re-release Killing A Camera on DVD this spring. Realizing that they didn’t have any concrete summer plans, all four members of the seminal emo group decided to reunite for one final tour to promote the project. A two-month North American jaunt was planned and successfully completed in June and July. While scheduling the dates, an offer came from a Japanese promoter to play a week’s worth of shows in September. Figuring a free trip to Japan was too good to pass up, the band took August off to work on their own respective projects then packed their bags and headed for Narita Airport.

Now that everyone’s all caught up, let’s get to the good stuff—Braid’s final show. Taking place in an extremely small, way-too-packed club tucked away on a side street a few blocks away from Shimokitazawa station, the band got things started with a rousing version of “The New Nathan Detroits”. Bell swung his bass above the heads of those pushed up against the front of the stage while Nanna and Broach took turns singing. The predominantly Japanese audience started cheering loudly and sang along as Broach and Nanna screamed “Get up get up and go do what you started / If you want to be a martyr, try harder.”

Wasting little time the band proceeded to knock out a killer combination of “Killing a Camera”, “My Baby Smokes”, and “Nineteen 75”, before Nanna paused briefly to say “Arigato gozaimasu. We are Braid and this is called ‘First Day Back.’” His short hello and introduction worked perfectly with the quartet’s text-book perfect formula for how to play a rock show. Keep it fast, simple, and focused. An abundance of frills, crazy lighting, and excessive stage banter were cast aside in favor of solid musicianship and energetic, catchy-as-hell songs.

Performing a wide selection of tunes from all of their studio albums and singles, Braid’s music felt as fresh and relevant as it did when it was originally released back in the mid and late ‘90s. Tracks such as Frame And Canvas‘s “A Dozen Roses”, “What a Wonderful Puddle” and “Please Drive Faster” sounded fantastic and were eagerly greeted by the twenty and thirty year olds in attendance. The above songs, along with the majority of the night’s 90-minute set provided a look at the roots of the modern emo scene. Mixing a little bit of pop, punk, and indie rock with quality songwriting, emo started off with nothing but good intentions. Somewhere along the way, marketing teams, music video channels, and commercial radio teamed up to morph it into this massive all encompassing genre and fashion style that still turns out the odd gem, but essentially pushes forth mountains of half-assed, whiny pop-punk for the masses to eagerly swallow. Hopefully Braid’s brief reemergence will show young bands how things should be done.

Clearly having a fantastic time, a summer of touring together made it seem like the band had never split. Pausing every couple of songs to take a drink, the guys would each raise their beers and much to the delight of the crowd say “kampai” (Japanese for “cheers”) before taking a sip. This playful attitude at times made the show seem more like couple of old friends hanging out, catching up, and jamming together on a couple of old favorites than a final farewell concert. Deciding to call out the promoter who made it all possible, Nanna and Broach handed over their mics for a few minutes while he recounted tales from his week with the band. Hearing the word “karaoke” during the Japanese speech, Nanna interrupted and asked the promoter “to tell them that if I sing bad tonight it’s because of karaoke.” The promoter then went on to name the songs that the group chose to sing, which included work by the Pixies and Elvis Costello, and fittingly enough, Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town”. Nanna added that Broach also sang some Doors songs, which led to an impromptu cover of “Light My Fire” before breaking into “The Chandelier Swing”.

No doubt a little sad to see things ending a second time, Broach informed the audience that the group was “trying to play as many songs tonight as possible.” Met with a sea of blank stares he admitted that he didn’t know how to translate this and instead simply said “good times,” which garnered a round of applause. Closing the show with “Breathe In”, the band brought everyone out from backstage to clap along while they played. Bidding farewell once again, the few hundred lucky patrons present danced and yelled their approval, appreciating the fact that they got the chance to witness a great band one last time or perhaps for the first time. Not to take anything away from the members’ current work, but it’s probably a safe bet that more than a few went home secretly hoping that these four talented musicians may one day reunite for another batch of dates.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/braid-040913/