November 5, 2015 Modest Mouse Excite The Space at Westbury, NY 10-22-15 w/ Hop Along
Following an eight year hiatus between records, Washington State’s own Alternative Rock band Modest Mouse returned with a brand new album on March 16, 2015 entitled Strangers to Ourselves. Proving good things come to those who wait, the band’s sixth overall LP contains fifteen strong songs showing the band’s growth. Compounding their fans excitement, the band has spent most of 2015 touring the world in support of the new material, and following a busy Summer, they kicked off a Fall tour, taking them to a variety of cities not visited yet. Among those lucky enough to see the band live was the village of Westbury on Long Island in New York when Modest Mouse came to The Space on Thursday, October 22nd, with support from Hop Along. Last visiting the area back in August 9, 2014, when Modest Mouse teamed up with Long Island heroes Brand New to play Forest Hill Stadium in the borough of Queens, the visit to Westbury was welcomed by locals who came from all across counties to see the special performance.
To add to the chaos and creativity of the evening, Hop Along came out ready to fire up the crowd. Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, this band consists of Frances Quinlan on vocals/guitar, Mark Quinlan on drums, Tyler Long on bass, and Joe Reinhart on guitar. Debuting with the album Freshman Years in 2005, the band has released two full-lengths since, including their 2015 effort, Painted Shut.
Taking the crowd by surprise, Quinlan’s powerful groan alone exemplifies angsty feelings that everyone goes through as they began with “Buddy In The Parade.” Telling a story of the melancholy, everyday life of a working class citizen scrapping to get by, it is a worthy listen from their latest album. With a sound that takes influence from ’90s Grunge, the audience wanted more as their performance moved along. Next was the song “Waitress,” also off of Painted Shut. Soft, yet gritty, it talks of the idea of personal alienation and just trying to get by with massive thoughts running through the mind that are waiting to implode, unless expressed. Then there was “The Knock,” which has a light swaying Rock pattern which connected the audience with Quinlan as she sang affectionately. Changing gears, they went into 2012’s “Tibetan Pop Stars” with a gruffer sound where Quinlan’s voice was softer, but powerful enough to get the message across. As they continue songs such as “I Saw My Twin,” “Sister Cities,” and a few others, it became very apparent that they have a clear vision for their sound, and it will only continue to grow. Looking to expanding their reach, Hop Along now turns their attention overseas for their Our Trip To Europe Tour.
Following the opening performance, the audience waited patiently for Modest Mouse to take the stage. With a countless repertoire of music in their catalog, who knew what they were going to perform as their shows always seem to be a surprise. A band who has a long history with many twists and turns, the lineup has seen a revolving door for some time. Thankfully, band leader Isaac Brock (guitar/vocals) along with Jeremiah Green (drums) have stood strong for over two decades together for Modest Mouse. With a cast of musicians that now include Russell Higbee on bass, Davey Brozowski on drums, Lisa Molinaro on violin, and Tom Peloso as well as Jim Fairchild on guitar, Modest Mouse is a well-oiled machine that was ready to turn The Space upside down.
Beginning with the sound of rainforest background effects; waterfalls and echoes of monkeys, the mood was set as the audience was awaiting the rise of a new Amazonian phoenix, and its creator was Modest Mouse. Rocking a Hawaiian shirt with flamingos, as well as green and red nail polish, Brock started with “Strangers to Ourselves” off of the latest record. With is a good mix of orchestrated wonder and chaos, album opener is very prominent in violins and a melancholy, calm tone alongside the hypnotizing lure of Brock’s voice. They then moved into “A Different City” off of their 2000 album, The Moon and Antarctica. A reeling song with an upbeat, gritty sound and muffled guitar, the audience immediately felt the ground shake as they all moved around in a solid and fluid motion.
Going back to 2005 with Good News For People Who Love the Bad News hit single “Ocean Breathes Salty,” the crowd rejoiced with more singing and dancing along. Including a visual behind them, a video involved the band members themselves becoming pets that a lonesome farm boy was taking care of, until they died. Causing a roar, “Missed the Boat” off of 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank came next, a song of reflection of a past love and begging for the past to continue. Displaying a more sincere side of Brock’s vulnerability, the performance was complemented by Fairchild and Molinaro providing calm, beautiful background vocals. Moving into new material, they played “Lampshades on Fire,” a Rock tune where people began to dance and crowd-surfers began to take flight.
Symbolizing the band’s wide variety of instrumentation, “Bukowski” and “Broke” saw the use of banjo along with Brock’s flair for the artistic and dramatic. Keeping the energy flowing, they performed a shortened version of “King Rat,” an almost Ska influenced song with trumpets and banjos; a moderate gem from their earlier collection of music. Marking as a set change, the members took on different instruments as Brock also took this time to change costume to a new black Hawaiian shirt with toucans on it. Performing in style, they went into “The Tortoise and the Tourist,” another track off of Strangers. This moderately tempoed tune presented melancholy undertones of foreboding circumstances, while adding the idea of folklore and tales.
Attaining more loud roars from the audience, “Dashboard” kept everyone moving before the very raw “Night on the Sun,” another rare gem from the 2001 EP Everywhere and His Nasty Parlour Tricks. Taking their fans on a roller coaster of moods from dancy and joyous to melancholy and relaxed, Brock took the time to check on his audience to make sure they were enjoying themselves; words of affection from all sides of the floor was returned to him. Keeping the vibe light with pleasant exchanges, they moved into “Wicked Campaign,” taking the show in a different direction with its synthesizer base. Then there was “Float On,” a song that heavily put them on the map, performed in an Alternative style to spice things up. Continuing to go back in time, “Doin’ the Cockroach” was another early song that they chose to do from 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West, which began the first mosh of the night. They continued with songs such as their adaptation of “Sleepwalking” as made famous by the pair Santo and Johnny in the late 1950s, followed by “Fly Trapped in a Jar” to close out the main set.
Anxious for more, the lights remained dim and the haunting sounds of the jungle were heard before the band returned to the stage once more. Brock, again with a different outfit, began with “Dark Center of the Universe,” a song which began pretty soft then escalated to extremely heavy, resulting in fans jumping so hard that the floor began to shake. “Shit in Your Cut,” another song from Strangers to Ourselves, changed the tempo, and Brock’s brooding voice with a upright cello blanketed the room. Keeping everyone intrigued, Pop-like track “Fire It Up” came on before “Trailer Trash,” another early track which allows instrumentation to come to the forefront. “Dance Hall” packed a punch and became the song people banged their heads to and moshed even more to. To follow that thunder, “Shit Luck,” another early raw edgy song, was their selection of choice, and the crowd surfers were in full force before they finally closed out with “Parting of the Sensory.” A fitting closing, the well-orchestrated piece left the audience wanting more, in the best kind of way.
Modest Mouse’s fanbase has continued to grow over the past two decades because of how eclectic the band really is. Their music gives every dorky musician hope that this is how more music will be like someday; well-thought-out and beautiful in every fashion. While it seems touring in 2015 is winding down for the band, chances are they will be back again sometime in the new year. With that said, Modest Mouse will continue to be a success, and with Isaac Brock as their frontman, the circus will never stop, and it never should.