When Modest Mouse announced back in late January that they would be hitting the road this summer for a co-headlining tour with Brand New, it was somewhat surprising to see the two bands team up for 24 dates across the U.S.
While both groups attained critical acclaim around the same time — Modest Mouse first with their seminal album The Moon & Antarctica in 2000 and Brand New a few years later thanks to their sophomore LP Deja Entendu in 2003 — that’s where most of the comparisons seem to end. Modest Mouse, after all, have long been influenced by Talking Heads and the early 90’s alt-/indie-rock scene, with pioneers like the Pixies and Pavement leading (or should we say paving?) the way, whereas Brand New earned their keep touring with such emo/pop-punk outfits as Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, Good Charlotte, Dashboard Confessional and Blink-182. Ah yes, punk at its height in the early 2000’s … how we don’t miss those days.
But if there’s one other link between them, it’s Modest Mouse’s early punk aesthetics and their years playing at DIY venues before attaining mainstream status with their hit single “Float On” from 2004’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News. And although the raw, schizophrenic sound Isaac Brock has churned out over the last two decades as the band’s primary songwriter has never been analogous with what Brand New have put forth in the studio, Modest Mouse’s loose punk ties made it a little more understandable to see them paired with the Long Island product for a month-long run that included a stop in LA last Wednesday night at The Forum.
Of course, for as much as I tried to rationalize the billing in my head, every indication inside the venue told me otherwise. The show, which was originally scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., was delayed multiple times — first until 7:50 p.m., then 7:55 p.m. before settling on 8 p.m. — because, from what I was told, there were not enough fans in the stands (cue the classic “LA traffic” excuse). So when Brand New arrived onstage just after the hour, the crowd of mostly 20-somethings and those of us in our early 30’s was finally ready to absorb everything Jesse Lacey (lead vocals, guitars), Vincent Accardi (guitars, backing vocals), Garrett Tierney (bass guitar), Brian Lane (drums) and touring member Benjamin Homola (percussion) were willing to throw our way.
For this tour, Modest Mouse and Brand New had agreed to rotate opening and closing duties, and on this night, Brand New had drawn the “opener” card much to the dismay of their fans. By the time they had run through “Sink” and “Gasoline” from their most recent release Daisy to open the show, a stadium full of Brand New fans (or at least that’s what it looked like) was hanging onto every word that Lacey screamed. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get the full 90-minute set they were promised due to the delay at the outset, and Brand New, as a result, were forced to cut their performance short by two or three songs. Yet, it wasn’t until Modest Mouse hit the stage that I noticed how many Brand New fans had already left the building.
It took almost eight years on the dot for Modest Mouse to release their sixth full-length effort Strangers to Ourselves last March, and in that time, there was plenty of turmoil to go around. For starters, they went to Atlanta to work with Big Boi, but after recording five songs with the Outkast rapper and a number of top-notch session musicians, Brock subsequently decided to scrap them. Shortly thereafter, founding member and bassist Eric Judy left the band as well as percussionist Joe Plummer, signaling a major change to the group’s lineup just five years after topping the U.S. Billboard 200 with 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Brock, at one point during the recording of Strangers, even brought in former Nirvana bass player Krist Novoselic before realizing his style wasn’t suited for an album that strays in a variety of sonic directions (read our community review here).
For as chaotic as the recording process was though, Brock didn’t let it tear the band apart. Instead, he recruited multi-instrumentalists Russell Higbee and Lisa Molinaro along with percussionists Davey Brozowski and Ben Massarella to join Modest Mouse, turning what started as a trio of friends from the Seattle area into a touring machine of eight. And from what Brock has revealed in one interview, it might not be long before LP7 drops (it could actually arrive later this year) as the expected companion piece to Strangers.
Back at The Forum, Brock and company didn’t unveil any new music from their next LP (that would be too good to be true, right?), but they did dive deep into their catalog, going back all the way to 1996 with cuts from their debut LP This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About and second EP Interstate 8 during a set that lasted about two hours — a pleasant surprise for any Modest Mouse fan who stuck around until the very end. In fact, despite all of the critics who have lambasted Brock for being too inebriated at the band’s shows, what still makes Modest Mouse so fun and exciting to see live are the setlists they craft for each gig. It’s no secret over the years that the octet has made a point of choosing different songs to perform night in and night out, and in a similar fashion, it followed suit on this latest jaunt with Brand New, whose setlists didn’t vary all that much in comparison. As much as that didn’t matter to the many who showed up and bounced early, it’s tough to say whether we will ever see these two bands billed together again. Judging from the audience’s behavior however, we certainly wouldn’t count on it.
The World at Large
The Tortoise and the Tourist
Bury Me With It
The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box
This Devil’s Workday
Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)
Dark Center of the Universe
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
Lampshades on Fire
Fly Trapped in a Jar
Doin’ the Cockroach
Strangers to Ourselves
At the Bottom
Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades
Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t
Play Crack the Sky
I Am a Nightmare
You Won’t Know (with “Tautou” outro)