I left Mountaintop after being eliminated from the wiffle ball playoffs; a heartbreaker of a series in which I gave up two home runs to lose game three 8-6. Danielle brought me a hoagie, Middleswarth Barbecue chips and Turkey Hill green mango tea. I was on the road for Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame and the source of the Susquehanna River which runs down the mountains toward my hometown. An uneventful ride cutting through the Appalachians and I was at Ommegang Brewery. I and a few thousand others. I parked and found two lines diverged by a trash can full of empty beer bottles. I took the road more traveled and it made all the difference, because the other line was Will Call. The queue proceeded quickly as eager fans rushed in to get a taste of Take Forever IPA.
I got my tickets for a free sample and walked through a gate designed to look like the entrance to Jurassic Park. The sign read OMMEGANG in that jungly Jurassic Park font; their lion logo a silhouette against an orange-red backdrop. By pure coincidence I wore my Jurassic Park shirt.
What do they got in there, Ommegang? I laughed to myself.
The venue was on a hill. The stage was set at the bottom and food vendors and various stalks of hops lined the edge of the forest. The line for Take Forever started at the top of the hill and luckily the name of the beer wasn’t prophetic. Take Forever was a firmly bitter beer, the way an IPA should be. Your palate can decide if this is a good thing.
I found an opening about seventy-five feet away from the stage; close enough to enjoy the show but not too close that I would inadvertently end up thrashed around like a piñata. Also, I was brutally sunburnt and this part of the pit was securely shaded.
Surprisingly prompt, Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band went on stage around 7:10. Before the show, I listened to him sparingly and most of what I listened to was from his side project, Bad Books. Since the show, I’ve had him on repeat and can’t seem to figure out why I hadn’t before. As they played, a drone filmed the crowd and the set. People are inherently fearful of anything modern so a couple people, probably protecting their brain with tin-foil, tried taking it down with plastic cups. Devine played a small set of songs throughout his catalog including a cover of Holland, 1945 by Neutral Milk Hotel.
Manchester Orchestra followed with a barrage of songs, both old and new, playing at a speed that bordered between somber and eclectic. They finished their set with Where Have You Been? Accompanied by Kevin Devine and Jesse Lacey as the sky went purple under Cooperstown. The singers from each band joined in together for one song.
A wave of people at the hilltop rolled down after Manchester Orchestra, fighting their way to the front of the pit for Brand New. While the roadies set up, I helped a couple dudes look for their friend by shouting his name, only I couldn’t quite make out the full name so I yelled “Chris!” and mumbled to their tune. The stage darkened and therefore casted the audience in darkness. The only source of illumination were people’s phones, held up in anticipation for an opening blitz. A sulking shadow came out on stage and approached the mic. Two spotlights met at center stage and Jesse Lacey strummed the opening chords for ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’. The crowd collectively shrieked. Lacey let out a slight chuckle as he sang “gonna stay 18 forever.” The crowd turned into a chorus. As ‘Soco’ faded out, the rest of the band joined in and turned it up with grungy renditions of ‘Vices’ and an at first unidentifiable ‘Gasoline.’ The rest of the night the crowd turned into a chorus, screaming the lyrics out with a familiar angst. I normally mouth the lyrics but I couldn’t help but be overtaken when the crowd howled “Die young and save yourself!” I spent the night awashed in an undeserved sense of narcissism as ‘Okay I Believe You but My Tommy Gun Don’t’ rang out toward the Appalachians. I felt apoplectic and apathetic during the buildup of ‘Mix Tape’, and reminisced about the people I used to talk to. At points, the crowd turned to their neighbors and shouted brief exclamations like ‘Holy Shit!’ as Brand New cut into songs that aren’t played live that often, such as ‘Flying At Tree Level’ and ‘Jaws Theme Swimming.’ After that, the set list turned stern as the crowd bobbed their head and swayed in solemn remembrance during ‘Limousine’, then tossed their lighters up while reciting ‘Play Crack The Sky’, then stood frozen in existential blight for ‘Jesus’. The crowd became more chaotic as the pace quickened with the sad fate of the subject of ‘Luca’ and the simple chant of ‘Yeah!’ during ‘Sowing Season.’ The band shuffled on stage and the crowd remained planted in anticipation for an encore. Brand New emerged for one song and every planted foot broke from their roots in an energetic flail. Fireworks appeared from above Ommegang’s metal silos as the band descended into feedback and chaos. The feedback rang out until I left.
Sunday’s Ommegang show was an example of karmic retribution. I had a chance to see Brand New years ago but unfortunately could not attend. Some three years later and I got to drive myself to the venue and listen to what was easily the best show I have ever been to. I also got to drink a beer that may never be released to the public (a shame). Sunday was my first road trip by myself and I can’t wait to do something like that again. I blasted music the whole way home but nothing could compare to the live experience I was driving away from.