Show Review: Modest Mouse @ Stubbs (11/8)

Having seen Modest Mouse on several occasions, and in various settings, I headed off to Stubbs this past Tuesday a little skeptical of what I’d see.  Before I get onto that, let’s skip ahead to talk about opener Talkdemonic.

I can honestly say, in retrospect, that Talkdemonic was the best band at Stubbs last Tuesday.  They don’t have the traditional Portland sound, or at least the one we’ve come to know lately, instead using loops and prerecorded tracks to build, build, build.  Using a violin and a drummer might not jump out at you immediately, but once the sound came through, you could see the skill and craftsmanship of the duo.  You’ve also got to give credit to the twosome, as it takes a great bit of skill to utilize the various backing tracks, and pull it off to perfection, all while warming up an anticipatory crowd.  Hats off to the band, as the did more than step on to the stage, leaving me with the best impression of the evening.

I don’t know what to say about Modest Mouse anymore.  Their last two albums have been polished and clean, rarely offering the brilliance that they once gave out so easily. This isn’t a knock on their growing popularity, as that really has nothing do with it.  You can’t go listen to Lonesome Crowded West or Moon and Antarctica and tell me they’ve come anywhere near replicating that quality.  Perhaps they’ve just lost the heart.

And personally, that shows in the live setting.  Isaac Brock did his best to bang out his guitar licks, but that only lasted into a few songs before the group returned to their disinterested stature that they’ve seemed to carry for some time now.  They caught my ear by giving a go at “Cowboy Dan,” but even then I felt like the band had given up.  Surely I’m in a minority here, as the fans seemed overly-enthusiastic with each track, but playing all these new tracks just doesn’t do justice to the group’s songwriting capabilities.  At points, as screams went out for new songs, I wanted to yell at the audience, begging them not to encourage such mediocrity, but instead I just scowled at the stage.

I don’t know what it is with Modest Mouse.  They’ve never been a great live band, and that’s always been a knock against them for fans; they still had the songs to back it up.  But, as the band has gone on, bringing in characters like Johnny Marr to enhance their sound, they seem to have regressed musically, which doesn’t bode well for their live show.  I can honestly say that I’ll never willingly go see them again in the live setting, but I can thank them for bringing out Talkdemonic, the best act last Tuesday at Stubbs.

More shots at the photo site


  • “Surely I’m in a minority here, as the fans seemed overly-enthusiastic with each track…”

    Exactly. You are in the minority with your opinion of this show. While you were scowling at the stage the rest of the Modest Mouse fans were going nuts.

  • That’s the sad point Mr. Dan, that show was atrocious, and I don’t think people should continue to praise the mediocrity that the band breeds on stage.

  • Atrocious? Was Isaac black out drunk like he would be in 2002? Could he not remember the words to the songs like he would be in 1999? No. Aside from the slip of the first verse on ‘I Came as a Rat’, they entire band was on point. Concerning the ‘disinterested stature’ of the band…have they ever been a total crowd friendly band? No. They aren’t going to chant ‘Float’ while the crowd chants ‘On’. Longtime Modest fans are 100% OKAY with that. True longtime fans thought the show was stellar. If the fans such as yourself who scowl at the stage while they perform never come back to see them, we won’t miss your presence 🙂

  • Well, considering I’ve seen the band since 97, I’ve seen them perform far better shows, even when they had signs on their merch booth that were willing to trade pills for merch. I’d rather see them falling over themselves trying to slam out those tracks because at least then they were passionate about it. Now, they’re not passionate about; they’re not passionate about anything, which is why they had to bring in Johnny Marr so they could muster some strength; they ended up with a sheen album that most fans will dismiss. Oh, and while I’m on the point of a Modest Mouse show, if you somehow found that performance enjoyable and stellar, then you need to get out more, as I’ve seen a lot of 7 piece bands play shows, and none of them had the muddied sound you got from the MM boys (and occasional girl). There was nothing stellar about that show, both myself and our photographer left feeling extremely underwhelmed, and frankly, quite bored. But, all that’s opinion, and mine alone, so if you enjoyed it, more power to you.

  • haha pills for merch…that sounds about right for them back in the day. I have disagreed with just about everything you’ve said, especially about the part where I need to get out more. Being a writer for Austin Town Hall one would imagine you’d be a little less biased and aggressive. Your saving grace was “But, all that’s opinion, and mine alone, so if you enjoyed it, more power to you.” I look forward to seeing if you somehow write a super negative piece on Mac Miller

  • Yeah. I’ll acknowledge that the unfortunate side effect of being me is that sometimes I’m an asshole when I try to prove a point. So I apologize, but I just can’t stand going to see that live band. I guess lately I feel like its easy for bands to come in, slop down a show, and everyone applauds. What I want is someone to break their guitar to bits, punch me in the face and leave me with an impression…and since that’s what I’m looking for, I’ll say Modest Mouse have failed me again and again. But in all sincerity, I know the band has great songs, most of them being the oldies, and I promise to work on being less aggressive, but always biased. It’s my opinion right?!

  • I was at the wed night show and thought it was outstanding. The sound was the best I have heard at stubb’s this year. The vocals, the guitar, the added horns and strings were coming across clear as could be. The band and the audience were completely into the show…. and the set list was freaking awesome.

    I Came as a Rat
    Fire It Up
    Bury Me With It
    Dance Hall
    Float On
    Life Like Weeds
    Paper Thin Walls
    Trailer Trash
    The Whale Song
    The View
    Spitting Venom
    This Devil’s Workday
    Gravity Rides Everything
    Baby Blue Sedan
    Parting of the Sensory

  • Still seems a bit too heavy on the last two records for me, considering those have really been the least interesting ones. That being said, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, and am sorry the show I attended wasn’t the same.

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