Rambling and Un-edited Review Modest Mouse at The Pageant Last NightNovember 15, 2007
In 1998, I was in college and DJing at KCOU, my college’s radio station. At the time, I was very much into punk rock and noisy for noisy’s sake music; I hadn’t hit my pop, alt-country, electronic, or anything else phase yet. I despised the idea of “college rock” (remember when people called it that?)… I never even listened to Pavement in the 90’s because I so strongly associated them with “College Rock.” Same with Tortoise. And Modest Mouse. To me, college rock was boring. While working at the station, I avoided playing Modest Mouse like the plague – without ever having even listened to them. But then something happened; for the full story, listen to Sebadoh’s “Gimme Indie Rock.” I studied abroad, diversified my friends and generally lightened up. I got into BritPop big time (about four years too late – did I mention I refused to listen to The Bends because the video for Fake Plastic Trees so turned me off? And that that led to my willful ignoring of OK Computer? I finally discovered The Bends to be one of my favorite albums of all time right about the time of the release of Kid A). I got into electronic music. I got big into alt-country. I started listening to the CMJ music sampler CDs (this was right in the very beginning of the Napster days, when Last Flight to Jakarta was about the only blog-like website out there, so this was actually a fairly efficient way of discovering new music) and came across “The Stars are Projectors” on a CD in early- to mid- 2000. I was floored. I loved it. I immediately hit Napster or Limewire or whatever we were using back then to download as many Modest Mouse songs as I could.
In a mere two years, I had completely flipped my mind on a band I had very strong opinions on by simply, you know, listening to them. I kicked myself for previously dismissing them so casually. I finally got to see them live for the first time in 2002 on the Unlimited Sunshine Tour, with the Flaming Lips, Cake, De La Soul and Kinky. The Flaming Lips clearly owned that night, but I was so impressed by Modest Mouse, that I drove to Columbia 10 days later to see them headline at The Blue Note with The Anniversary. It was just a great show. I have followed them closely since. For the past 6 or 7 years, they are the band that I feel comfortable enough call my favorite band (behind Def Leppard, of course). I have seen a few busts of shows (their performance at the ACL Festival in 2004 was very so-so and this year’s Lollapalooza performance was OK). I do not think they can do no wrong; I regularly skip over the Tom Waits-ian middle third of Good News For People Who Love Bad News. When Johnny Marr joined the band, I was not impressed, concerned, excited or bothered. When I heard We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank earlier this year, I loved it immediately but did not see the Marr fingerprints that everyone else seemingly so easily did. It sounded exactly like I expected Modest Mouse to sound.
All of that being said, I was very excited leading up to their show at The Pageant last night, but realized when I got to the venue that I hadn’t listened to any Modest Mouse for at least a month or two before the show.
I got to The Pageant after Love As Laughter played, which is unfortunate since I have enjoyed the few songs of theirs I had heard before. Man Man was second on the bill, and they were great. The sound was a little muddy, but their energy could not be denied. I would guess about 20% of the crowd never had any intention of giving them a chance; 20% gave them a chance, but were lost at some point between the banging on pots and pans and the throwing of a fake severed head; and the remaining 60% really appreciated their performance. By the end of their set, the crowd was very loud in their support of the band.
Modest Mouse came on at about 9:50 and played for approximately one hour and forty-five minutes, but it was a show that felt like it was 45 minutes long; you wanted them to just keep playing. It was easily one of the best Modest Mouse shows I’ve seen. The band and crowd’s energy noticeably increased as the show went on. They opened with “Bury Me With It”, “Paper Thin Walls”, “Dashboard” and “Fire It Up”. Fire It Up was my least favorite song on We Were Dead… but live, I really enjoyed it. The setlist was great, pulling out relatively obscure songs like “King Rat” and “Here It Comes” and older gems like “Broke” and “Alone Down There.” The band played a great banjo-lead version of “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” that morphed into a classic, extended but tight Modest Mouse jam. “We’ve Got Everything” and “The View” were also major highlights of the set. The encore was three songs long, consisting of “King Rat” and a song I wasn’t familiar with, and ended with the brilliant “Spitting Venom,” with snippets of “I Came As A Rat” thrown in to its extended jam for good measure. Isaac seemed exceptionally chatty, even if you couldn’t understand a word he said. Despite my coolness regarding the presence of Johnny Marr, he did make a notable difference to “BukowskI,” turning a song that is normally fairly ho-hum live into something great.