Friday, November 16, 2007

Modest No More

As previously mentioned, I went to the Modest Mouse show at COMO's Blue Note last night. As I sat waiting for the music to begin, I realized that it had been eleven years since I first saw Modest Mouse and ten to the month when they convinced me that they were the best live act ever. Of course, that opinion changed. It's probably been six or seven years since I enjoyed a Mouse show (not counting my bachelor party where I was too drunk to realize that it was a sub par performance - I heckled anyway, "O-hi-ee-o!").

Back at those early shows, Modest Mouse was my little secret. After that first show in a bar located in a basement that served bagels and beer, I wrote "Modest Mouse" on a scrap piece of paper to remind me of the magnificence I had just witnessed and kept it for months on my bulletin board. Then, over winter break, I insisted that my brother and sister both dub Long Drive onto cassette and freely distribute it to anyone they knew (pre-Napster?). My brother took his tape back to Dayton and a strong community of the converted sprouted up.

Every friend or acquaintance I knew had to submit to listening to Modest Mouse. Many were converted, but I still felt as though they were unknown enough to still be mine. They weren't on MTV or the radio. I was the only one listening to "Tundra/Desert" at any moment in time...or so I was convinced.

Then came the breakthrough. "Float On" ended any pretensions that I held that I was the one and only Modest Mouse fan. The band had even released a major label record prior to Good News but to little fanfare or acclaim. It was great to see one of my favorite bands succeed, but it was sad to lose the intimacy I had with the band and its records.

I was reminded of this lost intimacy at a packed Blue Note throughout the band's show. I considered watching the show from just in front of the stage, but I soon realized that the one spot I could squeeze into was behind the speakers that were going to block front man Isaac Brock's position on stage. That would never do, so I returned to the balcony.

Although the band has been playing rather large venues to largely mainstream audiences, I still felt that half of their catalog was unheard by many in the crowd. It turns out I was wrong. The band played several older tracks and a rarity from an EP and people sang along as enthusiastically for those songs as they did for "Float On" or "Dashboard". The secret is out or it has been and I'm just finally coming to terms with it.

The strange thing is that I'm actually OK with this growing notoriety. The band is able to make a living making music. And that music is getting airplay, something I never expected. It's great that a man whose vocal stylings resembles Tom Waits with a lisp is atop the Billboard charts. The fact that such challenging music has invaded the mainstream is always welcome.

The show also reaffirmed my faith in the band and its live show. They were sharp and efficient, not to mention incredibly gifted performers. I was curious about how Johnny Marr would fit in, but I wonder no more. He's really a very talented guitarist who didn't take away any of the spotlight from Brock.

I had felt that over the years the frenetic energy in their early years was missing from Modest Mouse's live sets, but this was proven to not be the case anymore. I hadn't seen Brock holler with such conviction like he did last night in a long time. Jeremiah Green was finally the driving force from behind the drum kit as he was in the mid-nineties. The songs made people dance, stomp their feet, and mosh (really) with fantastic enthusiasm. Spoon put on a great show last month, but they didn't energize the crowd half as much as Modest Mouse did Thursday night.

Although I was put off by the $35 ticket and $25 t-shirt prices, the show confirmed my eleven-year commitment to Modest Mouse. They can put on a great show despite their popularity. The band still has some gas left in the tank, so to speak. This may be the last time I'll ever see them in a club or at all, but I'm glad I forked over the cash for last night's show.

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