For a band that’s older than me, Modest Mouse’s energy sure was robust for the entirety of their two hour set at Washington DC’s Echostage on Sunday, September 6. Established in 1992 in Washington State, one of alternative music’s now quintessential acts originated with the chance encounters of a few Seattle area teenagers. The indie rock band probably graced your musical radars with their certified platinum release Good News for People Who Love Bad News in 2003 that featured the tracks “Float On,” and “Ocean Breathes Salty,” which garnered the band a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. If that album didn’t put them on your maps then surely their 2008 LP We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank must have, being that it was the band’s first album to reach no. 1 on Billboard’s 200 – does “Dashboard” ring a bell?
In March this year, Modest Mouse released Strangers to Ourselves, their 6th studio album and their first full-length album since We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank 8 years prior. A solid release from an established band, the album is not at all groundbreaking for a band that’s been in and out of the studio, losing and gaining members, and cancelling tours for the past 8 years to finish it. While there’s little maturity evident in the album, musically, it contains what fans have come to love from Modest Mouse over the years.
The band may have took to Echostage with jaded poker faces – with the exception of frontman Isaac Brock who delighted us all with his emotionally animated faces, but each member performed with a dynamic vigor despite the long set. In true major label rock band fashion, lead singer and guitarist Brock drank throughout the duration of the set, even sharing with the audience his (semi?) intoxicated musings and insights on life and I’m not quite sure what else because most people didn’t understand what he was saying.
Bringing their schizophrenically layered tracks to life meant bringing a plethora of band members and instruments to the stage. With two drummers, two guitarists, a bassist, and a couple of multi-instrumentalists, Modest Mouse filled the large venue with their chill and honest alternative music, bringing concertgoers, many of whom were in their 30’s and 40’s, to sway and head bob to punchy beats. Live, the band sounds much heavier than their mp3’s which was quite enjoyable, however, their tame aggression vibe did feel like it dragged on a bit given some of the song choices. The 18 song set and ensuing 5 song encore consisted of a number of tracks from Strangers to Ourselves, a few from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank including “King Rat” and “Dashboard,” a couple less popular songs from Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and the rest an eclectic mix from their 90’s archive such as “Grey Ice Water,” and “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes.”
All in all Modest Mouse put on a performance that had something for everyone – everyone except for those “annoying” fans who could not get over the fact that they didn’t play “Float On.”