Modest Mouse: Live Review

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It couldn’t possibly be that easy to be a support act and play to a crowd of someone else’s fans. Especially when these fans aren’t even there at the time. Nor if you combine it with trying to fit a five piece band on a stage the size of a standard playing card which oddly enough was housed within a venue that was as cavernous as the Mines of Moriah.

Seeing as you could hear a pin drop between songs, I am pretty sure that I did hear Smeagol enquiring to nobody in particular “Carry on, don’t mind me, just pretend I’m not here. Anywho, you wouldn’t have happened to have seen a ring lying anywhere around here would you? It’s actually pretty average and not that important really come to think about it hindsight; just forget I mentioned anything. Ahem”. Yet it was exactly this situation that Pearls faced when they opened up for Modest Mouse at Margaret Court Arena.

Pearls have an interesting and fairly diverse sound. Songs range from Sons & Daughters-esque psychobilly-lite sound, to a track that was almost channeling 1980’s Kenny Loggins to finally something akin to the dirty blues sound of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on Spread Your Love. They did however save their best for last with Big Shot, which managed to sound nothing at all like any of the genres above. Quite excellent was that sound and the 23 people in attendance at the time appreciated it greatly.

 

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Once Pearls wrapped up, it was time for the main event. Modest Mouse. It had 5 years since they last toured Australia and even that was 4 years after the last release before 2015’s Strangers To Ourselves was released. By any objective measurement scale, this isn’t exactly a dynamic rate of output. It would be difficult to imagine them belonging to any record label with a more appropriate name than Glacial Pace. It was also very much in keeping with this theme that tonight started up. First there was the droning bee sound which did drag on a bit. This then morphed into flashing lights shining on the instruments for some time after that. It was at this time that it looked like a potential Death Grips situation was about to break out; one where the crowd waited patiently with bated breath for the show to start and they were greeted by lights beaming down on instruments whilst the band were somewhere where the stage wasn’t. It was a pretty easy way to pull a pay cheque in the name of art (except for the roadies who had to set up the instruments), but not necessarily a great way to endear yourself to the fan base. Thankfully this didn’t eventuate or last much longer and Modest Mouse unleashed an epic 20 song set, which by their almost Cure-like standards was a bit short amazingly enough.

Seeing Modest Mouse on stage is a hell of a thing; nothing is ever done in half measures. The sound (much like the band) is huge. Virtually every member of the band is a multi-instrumentalist and this leads to situations where in certain songs you will have 3 drummers and 3 guitarists. Because quite clearly two, let alone one of each just won’t do. It wasn’t just the sheer cubic volume of instruments that was impressive, it was also a matter of the variety as well. (One of the many, many) multi-instrumentalists Tom Peloso, plays something that is somewhere between a bass and a double bass, undoubtedly called a ¾ bass by people who have a less than rudimentary understanding of how fractions work.

Whilst hibernation seems to be the natural state of being for Modest Mouse, when they are active they are incredibly productive. There have been countless albums, EP’s and bootlegs since the beginning and as such, the set list did not focus on any one particular era but jumped around a bit like Predestination and was equally as good. Predestination really does take the Futurama premise of Fry being his own grandfather to the nth degree. Whoops, belated spoiler alert there, pretend that never happened. What I actually meant by Predestination was actually Final Destination 5; safe in the knowledge that no one would ever watch it simply because the title is an oxymoron and that the first one wasn’t great so the four after were unlikely to be brilliant. In any case, completely unrelated to this, the majority crowd favourites were there (except for Parting of the Sensory unfortunately), which given the diversity in amongst the crowd was no small feat. Ocean Breathes Salty, Be Brave, King Rat, Cowboy Dan, Dashboard and Black Cadillacs were particular highlights. It appeared as though at one stage when Isaac was handed a banjo and started strumming a few notes that the crowd was to be treated to Satin In A Coffin, but sadly this wasn’t to be. Instead they were treated to The Devil’s Workday, which wasn’t a bad result at all.

For a band with epically depressing and cynically album titles such as This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, Good News for People Who Love Bad News, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, No One’s First and You’re Next and Building Nothing Out of Something, the entire set was remarkably upbeat. Isaac Brock is a tremendously charismatic and talented front man and the massive sprawling musical collective that is behind him is equally as impressive. The only downside was the strict curfew imposed by the good people of Margaret Court Arena. As soon as the clock struck 11, on came the house lights and everyone was rushed from the building on the oft chance that the whole venue was going to turn into a pumpkin. This in of itself wasn’t that bad a result as it was a Thursday night. This made the show closer The Good Times Are Killing Me all the more appropriate. Going to bed after midnight on a school night?! Outrageous.

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