Brand X at Bradford
The following reflection was written in 2003, when I was between 25 and 26 years old.
The Brand X show at Bradford on the 16th anniversary of John Lennon’s death was supposed to be a grand homecoming but it ended up being one of the more uneven shows of the Andy Hicks era. We had horrible acoustics, equipment that wasn’t big enough for the space, and a tendency to wander about the huge stage which made the whole thing look more chaotic than it sounded — and that was quite a feat.
The setlist went like this:
- Orange (Hicks)
- At The Movies (Clark/Hicks, Dubner, Murphy, Martin, Mills)
- Dominated Love Slave (Green Day)
- Spun By You (Martin/Hicks, Dubner, Murphy, Mills, Clark)
- Never Forget (Clark/Hicks, Dubner, Murphy)
- Labels (Clark/Clark, Johnson, Hicks, Dubner, Murphy, Martin, Mills)
- (Keep On Rockin’) In The Free World (Neil Young)
- Anymore (Clark/Dubner)
- Made of Clay (Martin/Hicks, Dubner, Murphy, Mills, Clark)
- It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) (REM)
- Country Feedback (REM)
- Wonderwall (Oasis)
- Mentos Jingle
- Love Song #469 (Clark/Mills)
That being said, let’s get right to the problems with the show.
First, we’d been rehearsing all day to prepare and we’d just played a show the night before. We were tired and we’d gotten angry with each other when we couldn’t get a slew of songs (including the oft-worked on and never-played Coconut Grove). Second, we were trying to do a full-length fucking show and we should’ve just been playing four or five songs. Third, the crowd was barely into it and that made the rest of the band barely get into it. I was oblivious though. I was going to have a good time in front of my home crowd regardless.
We opened with “Orange” and it was good and KenMills started it and ended it with this melodramatic soundscape that actually worked where it hadn’t in practice. “Movies” was never a good song lyrically and it was only barely tolerable musically. We shouldn’t have been playing it out yet. “Love Slave” was a Brand X classic and the rendition that night wasn’t too bad. I think Ken or JonMartin threw in some James Brown soundbytes on the keyboard.
“Spun By You” was catchy musically, except for my horrifically off keyboard part, but it was a little out of Jon’s range sometimes. It could have been a great song and it was getting there. “Never Forget” was new. Andy, Dubner, Beth the Bassist, and I had written during one practice where neither Ken nor Jon showed up until halfway through. It was simple but pretty catchy. It finished our first set on a half-way decent note.
People got up and read poetry and stories during the break. It was supposed to be half an open-mic night for the Bradford ReView (of which I was co-chair) anyway.
We came back and started with another song of mine, “Labels,” and it was okay. I don’t like listening to “Labels” today except for the drum intro, which was kind of like a march. It was the only part of the song that came out the way I really wanted it to. Ken, for some reason, always asks me to get together with him and redo the song nowadays.
“Free World” was a halfway decent Neil Young cover but I remember that nobody seemed to want to sing it and when that happened I eventually took over. “Anymore” was Jeff on piano and me basically talking my lyrics. “Made of Clay” was Jon at his angriest and it was probably my favorite Jon-written song. “End of the World” was another Brand X staple. We liked to show how fast we could sing it.
This is where we should have stopped. In truth, we should have stopped much earlier. We did alright though up to that point. The real point where the show went haywire was when we started our encore. “Country Feedback” was never really on target. Jon always had the emotion for it but the song always just barely clicked together. That night was no exception. “Wonderwall” was like Brand X karaoke with Andy on guitar. We all sang and it was fun but probably not fun for the audience. Then Andy broke out with Mento’s Jingle and we absolutely should have stopped. We’d played almost everything we knew.
But, despite protests from the band, Ken and I got up and did one more. We played the song the rest of the band loathed to be associated with, a little ditty Ken and I had written called “Love Song #469” which was just awful.
We finally packed up after that. I think, looking back on it, that we just wanted to let loose after being confined to short sets for so long. We should’ve stuck with the short sets though. They suited us better.