BY YVONNE ZUSEL
It might have been Isaac Brock and Jesse Lacey who celebrated their birthdays over the weekend, but it was the fans at their nearly sold-out Sunday night show at Chastain Park Amphitheatre who received a gift.
Brock, the lead singer of Modest Mouse who turned 41 on Saturday and Jesse Lacey, the lead singer of Brand New, who turned 38 on Sunday, led their respective groups through face-melting sets, despite punishing heat that so drenched Brock in sweat that you could clearly see the giant anchor tattoo on his back through his T-shirt.
The co-headliners — who have been trading off opener duties on this tour — seem like musical strange bedfellows, but it was apparent by the end of the night that if nothing else, they have in common rabid fan bases who love to sing along with every word of nearly every song, making for an interactive, deeply-felt experience for those in attendance.
Brock & Co. kicked things off with a mix of their five older albums as well as their most recent release, 2015’s “Strangers to Ourselves.” Brock’s distinctive vocals have held up nicely in the two decades since the group’s debut album, “This Was a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About” was released, particularly on the dancey “Dashboard” and the hard-charging “The Tortoise and the Tourist,” and he was ably supported by a large backing band that included, most notably, Lisa Molinaro on fiddle, keyboard and backing vocals, plus two drummers — one of whom played a melodica with one hand while drumming with the other — and a percussionist.
Two trumpets and a French horn turned “This Devil’s Workday” into a downright hootenanny, and Brock himself seamlessly switched between guitar and banjo, the latter of which especially shone on the twangy “Bukowski”.
Brock mentioned the heat several times, but other than playing about 10 minutes shy of what was expected to be a 90-minute set, the group didn’t show any signs of wilting under the sun.
The sun had set by the time Brand New took the stage, all the better to see the lighters and cell phone lights that fans waved in the air during the band’s singalong set that featured Lacey’s growl on “Mene,” the band’s most recent song, and the mid-tempo “Millstone.” Vincent Accardi provided haunting guitar on “You Stole,” off the band’s most recent album, 2009’s “Daisy,” and the poppy, nostalgic “1996”.
The intensity of the first half of the set was offset when the “Happy Birthday” to Lacey after a cake was brought onstage by a group that included Lacey’s wife and baby, and fans got a nice surprise when Andy Hull from Atlanta band Manchester Orchestra came out during an encore to play “Play Crack the Sky.”
The band’s fans have always been rabid, but the fervor of their devotion felt even more apparent Sunday night, since Lacey recently announced the band would disband in 2018. The group will likely return to Atlanta — they’re expected to release a new album this year — but even if they don’t, their Chastain set provided a perfect farewell for fans to remember them by.