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The Good Times Aren’t Killin’ Me

Monday, February 21st, 2005
Someone/Mason Jennings/Modest Mouse
Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, OK

Sometimes bands are dumb. This would be the case of the first opener band for Modest Mouse, who never spoke to the audience, and never once related their name. I attempted to find out who they were, and no one knew. They wasted 1500 tickets of exposure because they didn’t say their effin name. Idiots.

So after the nameless indie-pop band left the stage, Mason Jennings (who has a name, thank you very much) brought his band and confused everyone in the audience. At first listen, it was tough to peg Mason Jennings and Modest Mouse on the same show- for some reason, Modest Mouse had brought along an acoustic singer/songwriter specializing in Americana/Folk/Country? His lyrics were symbolic and nearly biblical, with references to ‘coming down the mountain’, birds, butterflies, rivers, rocks, the ocean (if I remember correctly) and other natural occurrences…and it just didn’t seem to fit. That is, until the end of the first song, when Jennings turned his voice into a crescendo ending in a yelp, and commenced his band to rocking out on a fractured, tormented riff that sounded like the devil getting out of Georgia.

Suddenly, everybody liked Mason Jennings.

The rest of his set continued in that nature, occasionally playing songs that fell into the genres of Americana, Folk, or Country, but feeling most at home when his thick, deep voice was anchoring the wild throes of a fractured rock/country mash up fit for Modest Mouse. Thoroughly enjoyable, they left the stage ready for Modest Mouse.

Unfortunately, Modest Mouse has this great tendency to be nuts. For instance, they decided not to come on stage for close to an hour after Mason Jennings left (45-50 minutes). This was mildly acceptable- I mean most bands have difficulties sometimes…but once they finally took the stage, they showed off clearly that they like being nuts by playing their hook song, “Float On”, second in the song list. How’s that for snubbing your record label….put the song they want you to play in the least important song of the set. The crowd – you guessed it- went nuts, although I’m proud to say that they were a lot more active on further songs.

Anyway, Modest Mouse sojourned on, hardly talking to the audience (this was a really morose show for audience interaction), splitting the set list evenly between old releases and the ubiquitous <u>Good News For People Who Love Bad News<u>. Highlights included the 11-man, 14-instrument treatment of the indie-pop “The Good Times are Killing Me” (they grabbed a bunch of guys from other bands, and their roadies, and their manager, and their sound guy, and their….) which lasted way longer than the album (thankfully). Isaac Brock’s voice actually made sense on this song, which is good-because throughout the rest of the show he turned most of the singing parts from <u>Good News</u> into his signature scream/sing/yell. It made for some interesting aesthetics, but hearing “The Devil’s Workday” as a spoken word interlude in the middle of some other unrecognizable song (I kept losing track of the songs they played in one section- it seemed like they morphed two or three relatively obscure tracks together) pretty much sucked. I wanted to hear the real thing.

A surprising highlight was the crowd favorite “Satin in a Coffin”, where Brock donned a banjo (this seems like the new instrument of choice for many bands) and gave the most surprisingly rocking performance I’d seen for a while- until they gave us an ear-shattering, finger-blistering, 20-minute version of “Cowboy Dan” off <u>The Lonesome Crowded West</u>. Who expected this? No one. Who loved this? Almost everyone. The song, based off a looping, chaotic alien spaceship noise, featured insane crescendos and decrescendos, spiraling from ear-shattering dissonant chords, two drummers, thunderous bass, and Isaac Brock full-on screaming into the pickups of his guitar (to distort his voice even more, as if it wasn’t ruined enough already), to virtually noiseless sections of  just the whirring alien noise. Twenty minutes of it. The crowd went ballistic, and I went with them- I had never seen such a pretentious, artistic move by a major-label band. Maybe I’m listening to the wrong major-label bands, I don’t know.

The closed out their set with some songs that had a little more structure than the apocalyptic “Cowboy Dan”- for instance, “World at Large” had everyone singing “ah-ah-ah-ah-ah…” until they left the stage, barely having said anything to the audience, but still having left us hanging on their every word. Modest Mouse is ridiculous live – ridiculously good.

-Stephen Carradini