Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Modest Mouse at Williamsburg Waterfront

Last night I went to see Modest Mouse play a show at the Williamsburg Waterfront here in Brooklyn. The show was originally scheduled for July, but three songs into their set that day, a massive lightning storm blew in and the NYC Parks Service cancelled the rest of the show. Luckily, Ticketmaster rescheduled for September 14. This ended up being better anyways, because it was sickeningly hot in July and the show started later. Last night, the temperature was a comfortable low-70s with a little breeze and the show began relatively early (doors at 5 p.m.), so I was able to get home and go to sleep at a reasonable hour.

As for the show itself, it was my favorite time I've seen them yet. The first time I saw Modest Mouse was summer 2003 as part of the free Siren Music Fest at Coney Island. I don't honestly remember that much about the show or what songs they played. The next time I saw them was at Irving Plaza in NYC about a year later, right before the album "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" was released. This was actually one of the best shows I'd ever seen at that point. As the new album was being promoted but not yet available for sale at the time, it was all new music to me. And they played so well that night! Everything was super tight and singer Isaac Brock was really on top of his game. Plus they played an encore that was almost as long as the set, so it turned out to be a pretty long show. When I finally bought the new album, I instantly recognized the songs they had played at the show, but it was actually almost a bit of a letdown because they'd sounded so good in person that the studio album paled in comparison. It stuck with me so much that I can still hear the live act in my head when I listen to the album today.

Last night's show was actually a bit of a departure from that Irving Plaza set I loved so much. I thought everything last night sounded much more loose. It wasn't messy, but it had an element of improvisation. All the songs sounded a bit off, a little more experimental than the album versions. It was also very loud, and the "big" parts of certain songs were played louder and louder. I wouldn't go so far as to call the show "epic," but it was pretty close. They had six musicians on stage and really took advantage of the instruments besides guitar, bass, and drums. An electric upright bass, banjo, pump organ, glockenspiel, accordion, and trumpet all made appearances throughout the night. I especially appreciated the trumpet, which was literally front and center on the stage, and stood out much more so than it does in the studio tracks. Also, the sound quality was surprisingly good for an outdoor show. Everything sounded very clean and you could pick out the details. As for the set list, they played a wide range of songs, a pretty even amount of stuff from all their full-length albums, plus a few appearances from some EP's. Since they don't currently have a new album to promote, I guess they had as much freedom in their song choices as they felt like taking.

I also need to point out how great I thought the lighting was. It being a rock show, there was of course fake smoke pumping out all night. But since it was so breezy, the smoke would immediately blow away if it wasn't constantly pouring out of the machines. This made it look like the band was playing in a storm--it was a really cool effect. Then you had a lot of backlighting, which made the bandmembers look like silhouettes in a cloud half the time. Bright colors were the lighting choice for most of the night, so the swirling smoke was colored, the silhouettes were colored, and the front of the stage would be another color. I saw tons of people taking sweet photos all around me, and it made me wish my cell phone took better shots (real cameras weren't allowed, natch). This added to the "epic" feeling I got from the whole shebang.

So, yeah, definitely my favorite Modest Mouse show I've seen to date. Here's the set list:

1. Gravity Rides Everything
2. Black Cadillacs
3. Satin in a Coffin
4. Here It Comes
5. Float On
6. Cowboy Dan
7. Dashboard
8. Blame It On The Tetons
9. King Rat
10. 3rd Planet
11. Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
12. Bury Me With It
13. Autumn Beds
14. Here's to Now (Ugly Casanova cover)
15. The Whale Song
16. The View


17. Guilty Cocker Spaniels
18. Dramamine / Life Like Weeds
19. Baby Blue Sedan
20. Spitting Venom / I Came As A Rat
21. Alone Down There

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