It was late on an October evening in City Park, New Orleans. The crowd was gathering around the stage early, as this was the first time Brand New, an alternative rock band from Long Island, was going to play music from their most recent album, “Science Fiction.”
The swamp fog was rolling in as the big, orange sun was sinking below the willows. Without an intro, Brand New erupted into an hour-long set filled with old classics and new favorites.
I fell in love with Brand New’s music the first time I heard their debut album, “Your Favorite Weapon,” in middle school. After waiting more than a decade, I finally got to see them, and everything was perfect.
All of that came crashing down on Nov. 10. I was floored when I opened a text from a friend and fellow Brand New fan. Jesse Lacey, the frontman and lyricist, had been accused of unwanted sexual misconduct with a minor. Needless to say, I was absolutely devastated.
This man was inspirational, and I had always respected him and his band; the music is deeply personal and philosophical, and contained positive messages that really helped me (and many others, I’m sure) in my early teens. Most of the lyrics deal with religion and the lifelong striving to be the best person you can be, and these themes helped me deal with some typical teenage issues. Even the name of the band’s website is fightoffyourdemons.com. To hear Lacey admit the accusations — that he solicited nude photographs from underage women online — were true was a real rude awakening.
It was easy for me to damn Harvey Weinstein as a perverted monster, just as it was unthinkable to NOT condemn Kevin Spacey for his disgusting, predatory actions. It was much harder for me to accept that Lacey, in fact, is guilty of unwanted sexual advances. At first I hoped it was just internet rumor-mill stuff. It is wildly inappropriate and problematic to victim-shame, but I admit I pondered the motive of the victim coming forward so many years later (the incidents occurred almost 20 years ago, long before Brand New became a successful rock band).
The motivation for coming forward with allegations of abuse isn’t relevant; always stand with survivors. There will come a time, when and not if, that someone you respect and admire will be publicly exposed. It could be for sexual assault, it could be for domestic violence, it could be lots of things, but when (not if), you must remember the victim. Your gut reaction might be to defend the person accused, as some tried to defend Lacey. “He’s a rock star, of course he wanted to sleep with these women,” or “what was she expecting, he’s famous” are not excuses.
I’m glad I got to see the band when I did. I could not enjoy the show, nor could I financially support the band after the allegations. It is going to take a long time before I will be able to listen to Brand New’s music again.
Lacey issued a lengthy apology and went on to describe his battles with addiction and rehab, but that doesn’t make it OK. So in Lacey’s own words, from the song “Seventy Times 7,” “I can’t let you let me down again.” This is goodbye, Brand New.