Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Modest Mouse--Congress Theatre, Chicago, Illinois

This was an interesting evening. I'm not even sure where to begin. But let’s start with opener Man Man. Let me apologize because I didn’t even know Man Man was on the bill until about 5 hours before the show. That’s why it’s not posted below. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal but they turned out to be the highlight of the evening and I didn’t even see the first half of their set. You can thank the line getting into the Congress Theatre, the line for coat check at the Congress Theatre, and the line for beer at the Congress Theatre for that. Oh, and coat check was $3 (The Double Door with the $1 coat check still comes in as the best deal in town if you want to rock out in the winter but not freeze on your way to the venue. Congrats, Double Door!) And you should have seen the crack squad that was assembled to handle this task. I took one look at them and their operation and asked for my coat back so I could get my keys out of the pockets. I'm pretty sure I still own a car because of this decision and no one will convince me otherwise. But back to Man Man…..these clowns from Philadelphia sure can put on a good show. Anyone who saw them play at the 2006 Pitchfork Festival can attest to that. I recognized one or two songs from their Six Demon Bag album but I think everything else was new. And they traded in their old hippie shtick for a sort of tribal sound that has me looking forward to their new album.

It was while waiting between bands that I realized that this ain't your father’s Modest Mouse. I think all the people that missed out on the Hanna Montana show must have been comped with Modest Mouse tickets. And I’m not one of those persons that cares about the general makeup of the crowd, I’m just commenting. I also must have counted at least 30 girls wearing Ugg boots. Before you roll your eyes, just know that it was cold outside. Ugg boots are great in the wintertime........especially when worn with a skirt and a “Little Miss Sunshine” t-shirt.

Another hilarious subplot of the evening was being introduced to Kanye East. When I first got inside the concert hall I was standing in the back of the theater near a girl with a British accent who seemed really into Man Man. Once they finished she came over and began talking to me and I found out she goes by the name “Kanye East” because she owns a pub in East London. (I have no idea where the “Kanye” part comes in to play and I didn’t ask). She was kind of like Penny Lane in “Almost Famous” because of her refusal to give her real name and because……..alright that’s where the similarities end. Nevertheless, Kanye East was a character. She began dropping indie bands left and right that she’s friends with. And she may or may not have ridden Space Mountain at Disney World with the Cold War Kids. She had a really thick accent, not to mention being extremely intoxicated, and I could only make out half of what she was saying. But I am positive that Kanye East had flown to Chicago from London specifically for the Modest Mouse show and for an excuse to visit some friends, who were in turn, very nice. Apparently, every time she had attempted to see the band before, she got too drunk and missed the show. And wouldn’t you know it, she’s friends with a few guys in Modest Mouse and they had given her a hard time about never seeing them live so her flying to Chicago was her way of making it up to them. She even invited me to the after-party with the band but I politely declined. It just seemed like a bad idea. Going back to the “Almost Famous” theme, I just kept envisioning being at a party with Isaac Brock standing on top of a house getting ready to dive into a pool. Only after yelling “I am a Golden God!” he catches his foot on the gutter and falls two stories like a sack of potatoes onto the concrete, gets up bleeding, takes a few awkward steps, and then plunges into the pool and slowly sinks to the bottom. No thanks.

Modest Mouse eventually took the stage and everyone went crazy. You have to appreciate this band. When it’s all said and done they’re going to have one of the most impressive catalogs from this era. They opened with “Bury Me With It” which sounded a bit off. Because of the late arrival, I was near the back of the very large Congress Theatre, so I may not have been in the best spot for acoustics but Brock’s vocals seemed to overpower the music way too much. The band just never seemed to be together. Right about the time he shrieked, “And God I love that rock and roll!”, it became obvious that he wasn’t the only one. So does Kanye East! She was a total bull in a china shop…..dancing very aggressively, slamming into people, spilling their drinks. A lot of people were put off but not me, I found it to be hilarious. Then again, I hadn’t just waited in a 30 minute line only to have my $5 Tecate spilled all over my pants.

Momentum picked up a little bit when the band slid into “Paper Thin Walls” but the initial problems seemed to creep back up throughout the show. Too often Brock was just screaming into the microphone which is fine but the band couldn’t keep up. And they unnecessarily extended songs and droned on while Brock rambled and improvised into the microphone. I wouldn’t have minded if I didn’t think this was at the expense of being able to fit a few more songs into the evening.

And this led to another problem which was the set list. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember a single song from Lonesome Crowded West. Honestly, how can that happen? Also, no “3rd Planet”, or “Gravity Rides Everything”. “Florida”, “Missed The Boat” and “Spitting Venom” are some of my favorites off the new album but none of those were covered either. Most other hits from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank were indeed played as was the obligatory “Float On". And like I said, Modest Mouse has such a large and distinct catalog so complaining about the set list probably isn’t fair, but come on, nothing from Lonesome Crowded West? Really?

If there was a highlight, it’s when they played “Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset” during the encore. This was the first time I was genuinely excited during the show because it was a reminder as to why Modest Mouse is such a great band. For all their loud garage band songs (which are great, by the way), they have this sort of alter ego that centers around beautiful melodies and introspective lyrics. I just wish they would have hit a few more songs like this throughout the evening. The other notable event around this time is that Kanye East vanished leaving her friends baffled. They were completely dumbfounded and had no idea where she went. One of them told me that whenever she visits she stands by the motto of “Whatever happens in Chicago, stays in Chicago.” so as far as they knew she could be anywhere. Hopefully she didn’t go downtown expecting a lot of people thinking Chicago was “The City That Never Sleeps”.

By the time the encores were finished, at least seven people had been dragged out by security for whatever reason. A friend of mine asked me if the other crew was still missing Kanye East. I informed him that I believe they were and then dusted off the old "Office Space" line and clarified that I wasn't missing her at all. We had a nice laugh. Please don't get mad Kanye, we kid because we love. A lot of my friends who were into Modest Mouse way before I was have always described their shows as hit or miss. Sadly, this may have been a miss but it didn't matter. Just being able to see this band on top of the other extra curricular activities that were going on made the evening well worth it. Hopefully, somewhere in East London Kanye East is smiling.


Alex said...

Quick correction....they did in fact play Doin' the Cockroach but I'm almost positive that was it from LCW. Carry on.

ewf said...

Damn, Al--nice write-up. You'll catch a better show next time. Issac Brock has joined my AA class, but has a lot of work to do. I'll be working on my top 10.

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