Sunday, March 15, 2009

Concert Review: Modest Mouse, Electric Factory, Philadelphia, March 14

When did Modest Mouse turn into seasoned indie rock veterans? More importantly, how did they do it without losing any of their vitality? At their show in Philadelphia on Saturday night, Isaac Brock was in top-form for the entirety of the two-hour-plus show, shouting alongside the original song melodies, hollering into his pick-ups, mixing and matching and vamping on lyrics, and taking songs like "Dramamine" and "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" on noisy ten-minute rides.

Yet Modest Mouse seems comfortable. They seem to be settling in with the idea that they're a band with a rich back catalogue, and able to draw upon many eras of their sound. If you want to count Good News For People Who Love Bad News as the first "new" era Modest Mouse album--which it is, based on style and the fans it attracted--their set did an 11/9 split old/new. And there were some true surprises--"Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset," and, according to Isaac, the first live performance of "Jesus Christ Was an Only Child" in a decade.

The diverse setlist, had at least two tracks from every major Mouse release, aside from, predictably, their shelved would-have-been-debut Sad Sappy Sucker and The Fruit That Ate Itself EP. Yeah, the roll-my-eyes-at-the-new-stuff crowd will whine, but "Fire It Up" aside, the band avoided any relative dud cuts from it's newest effort. "Parting of the Sensory," which it's build, dynamic changes, and overlapping vocal breakdown, is a multi-part Mouse song in the classic style, and all hits like "Float On" and "Dashboard" did was match Isaac' rambling vocals to more straightforward drum beats and slicker production.

Although the bigger band set-up made We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank seem a big bogged down, with Isaac's song-writing getting simplified to hold bigger rock arrangements, a six-piece Modest Mouse served songs old and new alike well in Philly--even the rock-star excess of two full drum kits. It's hard to keep track of who did what, but having a violin on hand can sure sweeten a song, and the classic four-note bassline on "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" is a lot thicker coming from a stand-up. And the megaphone finally answered my ages-old wonders about where that sound on "Jesus Christ Was An Only Child" came from; you know, the one that sounded like the buzzing of an angry adult from an old Peanuts cartoon.

Judging by setlists over at, the sets on this tour have varied, both in song selection and placement. It's the sign of a band that's bored to repeat themselves every night, and I'm glad to know that not only did I get a great show, but I got a unique one, as well. We got "Jesus Christ," every other city in the world! Take that!

Concert-goer shoutouts:
-To the dude in the "Cowboy Dan" t-shirt who I gave a boost to go crowd-surfing: Sorry you didn't get to hear your song, but I hope you enjoyed the show!
-To the "OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE PEOPLE LIKE DASHBOARD MORE THAN DRAMAMINE" guy: It's not a mystery. "Dashboard" was the lead radio and video single off a No. 1, RIAA Gold-certified record that came out less than two years ago. "Dramamine" was an album cut off an indie-label debut album that's more than a decade old. Also, judging by the back-to-back reactions to "Doin' the Cockroach" and "Float On," your evaluation of the crowd preference to old versus new isn't even accurate.
-To the "first to post how much I hated the show I paid $40 to see" set: You weren't, perchance, the skinny fuckers I saw with pusses on their face not singing along to a single song, were you? You know, the ones who didn't bob their heads or shake their hips, but got indignant whenever someone (me) who was having fun had the gall to try to get past you?
-To the girl I'm pretty sure was pinching my back during "Parting of the Sensory": What the fuck is your problem?

Black Cadillacs
Parting of the Sensory
Interstate 8
Doin' the Cockroach
Float On
Third Planet
The View
Fire It Up
Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset
Here it Comes
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
Custom Concern (aborted)/Baby Blue Sedan
Spitting Venom

Jesus Christ Was an Only Child
Paper Thin Walls
Night on the Sun
The Good Times Are Killing Me

1 comment:

Kleeb said...

Man this is a killer setlist. I think Modest Mouse is probably aware their old stuff reigns over their new, especially live. I'm impressed you got to see Paper Thin Walls, Dramamine, Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset, and Doin The Cockroach. Pretty great set overall.