[ATTENDED: August 7, 2014] Modest Mouse
It’s terribly frustrating when you think you’re getting good pictures but your phone’s viewscreen is evidently ten times better than its aperture.
I have liked Modest Mouse for a pretty long time. I think I first heard them with The Moon & Antarctica, but I also really loved This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About (and I recall listening to it a lot while driving from New Jersey to Boston). But I hadn’t realized that they hadn’t put out a new album in years. They had an EP in 2009, but their last full length, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank was in 2007.
Recently on the show At Midnight, Tom Lennon, made a great joke about Modest Mouse. The setup was Portland Pranks, and his joke was that people replaced all of the early Modest Mouse albums with their new ones. This made me laugh because it’s very funny, but when I thought about it (and how often I’ve heard it), it made me laugh because Modest Mouse have 5 full length albums out. And I think the first three are deemed classic. But I’m also guilty of liking their early stuff more too. (Although “Float On,” for all of its poppiness is a pretty fantastic song (so of course they didn’t play it)).
But man, did they play a wide variety of music. Starting with a song from Lonesome Crowded West (the first of 3) and then playing a song from Moon & Antarctica (the first of 4), before playing something from We Were Dead (the first of four as well). I had wondered why they were touring now since they don’t have a new release out. But they played four new unreleased songs and, man were they different.
But before getting to that, I was really amazed at their live band set up. They had two drummers (so, yes, it was loud), a (mostly) lead guitarist, a bassist, a keyboardist/violinist/horn player, a fiddler, and of course Isaac Brock on lead vocals and guitar/banjo. An extra horn player came out for one or two songs as well. In their stage set up, Brock was all the way to the right of the stage (instead of the typical middle). Since we were on the left, he was farthest away but still quite visible.
They played clean (at times) and utterly loud (at times). It was fascinating watching Brock do some strange things with his guitar–holding it up, dropping it down, dancing almost spastically with it and then coming back to yell (most times) his lyrics. The violins added an amazing sound to the show–she played a lot of the high notes that are in t he songs–notes that I have to wonder if Brock might not have played otherwise in the live raucous setting. And her backing voclas were terrific too, really adding texture to Brock’s unique singing style.
Since I don’t really know a lot of the lyrics very well, I mostly know melodies and approximations of what I think he sings, I recognized songs but not exactly which songs they were. So when I asked Jay if they would play “Dramamine” for an encore and he said they’d already played it (oops), and I realized that I’d sung along to it (double oops), I realized that the weird vibrato that accompanies most of the early songs was gone. Since the full band are such good musicians, the effects and tricks from the early records have been smoothed out. This makes a song like “Dramamine” sound very different in the beginning although the chorus is till recognizable. On the other hand it made it hard for me to tell which songs were from which albums. So it was nice to have a longtime MM fan like Jay there to coach me along–he told me that Brock often messes around with lyrics he ad libs things, even rearranges verse orders. And, as I noticed, he even stops and starts songs (like the tease of “Life Like Weeds”).
The other thing was how much more electronic/dancey the band seemed live. The second drummer had all kinds of electronic gadgets and gear to throw into a song (including a turntable scratching and various other sounds). This was especially noticeable on the new songs, which were crazy electronic. One of them was a virtual dance song–it was one of the longest jams of the night as well (this was kind of a shame as there were one or two songs that I could have listened to them play for ten minutes at least). In the one song, Brock had this strange long skinny microphone that he seemed to have simply in his mouth the whole time–when he took it away it seemed to lose power. It was really weird (and I have no idea what he was singing). The song was mostly drums and noise (very little guitar). I can’t imagine what the new album will sound like.
But the set list was terrific. A lot of deep cuts and weird old songs like “Shit Luck” (which was awesome) and a very lengthy “Spitting Venom” (which isn’t old but is a deep cut), and “Sat in a Coffin.” And as I said, they didn’t play their biggest hit (well, Isaac said he was a dick, so…) But he did play “Dark Center of the Universe,” one of my favorites and “Heart Cooks Brain” was a nice touch, too. Their version of “Wild Packs of Family Dogs” was really strange–synthy and quirky and very different from the record.
So overall the set was pretty awesome. The band really rocked the house, they sounded great and seemed to be having a lot of fun. Even Brock, who I gather is rather prickly, seemed to be having a good time. He had a lengthy banter with the audience which I couldn’t decide if it was nonsense or a genuine conversation with one person. He also told us that the entire encore would be just him talking (and since they took seemingly fifteen minutes before they came out for the encore, that was entirely possible). They played for over two hours, which was pretty great.
The audience on the other hand… Well, perhaps it was just where we were standing, but it was really crowded, which meant a lot of pushing and shoving (but not in a dancing around kind of way–although there was lots of pogoing on the floor). A fight broke out right next to us (which security was right on). And there was just too much walking around –watch the show, guys. And the girl in front of us who I decided was dragged there by her boyfriend literally couldn’t have looked at the stage more than five time–she may not have even known there were two drummers.Ugh.
I also clearly go to see bands that women don’t like, because there were a lot more women at this show than the last few I was at, and man, were they rude and pushy (and really drunk). I think it’s time to go back to seeing bands that are less popular.
Cowboy Dan [LCW]
Dark Center Of The Universe [M&A]
Lampshades On Fire [new]
> Life Like Weeds (Tease) [M&A]
This Devil’s Workday [GNFPWLBN]
Satin In A Coffin [GNFPWLBN]
Fire It Up [WWDBTSES]
Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset [TIALDFSWNTTA]
Wild Packs Of Family Dogs [M&A]
Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes [M&A]
Shit In Your Cut [new]
Black Cadillacs [GNFPWLBN]
Spitting Venom [WWDBTSES]
Shit Luck [LCW]
Trailer Trash [LCW]
Heart Cooks Brain [LCW]
The World At Large [GNFPWLBN]
Paper Thin Walls [M&A]
The Good Times Are Killing Me [GNFPWLBN]