Brand X Rides Again!
During my first semester at Binghamton University (aka SUNY-Binghamton), in 1976, Brand X-- a terrific progressive rock ensemble--came to my rescue. I was playing for the Binghamton soccer team and often had to get up early on Saturday mornings, as the team would depart at that time for games. Unfortunately, my dorm floor-mates would stay up late partying and singing songs from Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, The Grateful Dead’s American Beauty and others all through Friday nights and into the wee hours of Saturday mornings. I was not getting any sleep as a result despite my banging on their walls and doors. When they finally went to sleep one night at 4AM I got a couple of well-needed hours of shut-eye. At the same time, I was not going to let them get away with keeping me up, so I plotted my revenge as soon as I got up at 6AM. I was going to blast the loudest and most intense music I could find in my record collection at that ungodly hour and give them a taste of their own medicine. The album that I chose was Brand X’s Unorthodox Behaviour. The first track, entitled “Nuclear Burn,” would be the perfect retaliatory wake-up call. The title tells you all you need to know about how loud this song can get. As soon as “Nuclear Burn” blasted out of my speakers, I could hear (if barely) my floor-mates desperately banging on my door and walls. Revenge was sweet. From that day forward, Brand X has remained very dear to my heart.
I learned about Brand X after reading stories about the band in Melody Maker and Circus magazines. I was a huge Genesis fan at the time (still am), and I learned that Phil Collins was now drumming for Brand X as well. I immediately sought out their first record Unorthodox Behaviour at my local record store. I was lucky because that store carried lots of imports, and that was the only way to hear Brand X at that time. The band featured Phil Collins on drums, John Goodsall on guitars, Percy Jones on fretless bass, and Robin Lumley on keyboards. I was completely blown away by Phil’s incredibly strong drumming, John’s frenetically charged guitar work, Robin’s quirky keyboards, and Percy’s magical bass playing. I also loved the album cover designed by Hipgnosis, and the very funny and unusual song titles.
I eventually got to see Brand X live in 1978 when the band was in its prime, and later when they reformed in the 90s. I thought that would be the last time I would see them play live. But something amazing and kind of strange took place in October of this year. While scanning the pages of New Jersey Stage magazine’s October issue I noticed an ad for the Newton Theater. The ad featured the very recognizable Brand X logo. Upon closer inspection I noticed that Brand X was reforming, and that the band members were going to play music from their first three albums as part of a reunion tour in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. I quickly typed Brand X into my search engine and got all sorts of useless info related to the actor Russell Brand. After digging a little deeper I discovered that Brand X was indeed touring all around where I live in Central New Jersey. As I was late in the game, many of these area shows were already sold out but I saw there were still some good seats left for the Newton Theater gig in Newton, New Jersey, which is way up north in Sussex County and about an hour and half trek from where I live by car. I scooped up two tickets and took my wife Irene along. It was great to see Brand X live on “Mischief Night,” October 30, 2016 which was the last show on this leg of their tour. The drive to the theater was kind of harrowing as it was pouring rain and the roads were treacherous. Needless to say, though, we made it to the concert in one piece and on time. As we were entering the theater, I noticed that Kenwood (aka Woody) Dennard, the band’s drummer in 1977, and the current drummer now, was standing next to me. Irene and I struck up a conversation with him and he couldn’t have been more cordial to us. In fact, he encouraged us to take the selfie that you see here. The evening was off to a great start.
The band now features two of the founders: John Goodsall (on guitar) and Percy Jones (on bass) plus Kenwood Dennard (the drummer who took over for Phil Collins in 1977), Scott Weinberger (percussion), and Chris Clark (keyboards). The band sounded incredible at this Newton show and it was really great to hear material from their first three records, Unorthodox Behaviour, Moroccan Roll, and Livestock. I was in seventh heaven when they played all of my favorites: “Nuclear Burn,” “Born Ugly,” “Malaga Virgen,” and many others. The music flowed effortlessly from song to song and there were some interesting slides projected on the side walls to provide visuals for all of the songs. During “Euthanasia Waltz,” there was a vintage photo of a couple dancing from what looked like the 40s or 50s. For “Born Ugly” a photo came up of Indonesian men wearing their fierce mud masks. According to a Facebook post by percussionist Scott Weinberger, Brand X have more shows planned for the U.S.A. in the new year. The band is looking to expand the reunion shows in 2017 with more multi-media elements. I’m looking forward to all that. The second leg of the Brand X reunion tour will begin on January 2, 2017 at the Iridium and this time I got my tickets early. If you want to see amazing musicians play incredible jazz/rock fusion music make sure you check these guys out.
Here is a list of their upcoming tour with ticket links:
-Jan 02 (Mon): New York City @ The Iridium ($40)
-Jan 03 (Tue): New York City @ The Iridium ($40)
-Jan 04 (Wed) Pawlings NY @ Dary'ls House ($30-$40)
-Jan 05 (Thr): New Hope PA @ Havana ($39)
-Jan 06 (Fri): Sellersville PA @ Sellersville Theatre ($33-$45)
Next leg of tour will be in May-June 2017.
And here is a video shot during Brand X’s Fall 2016 Reunion Tour in NYC to give you a taste of how good they look and sound today.