No News Isn't Always Bad News: Night Two of Modest Mouse at the Crystal

Vortex Music Magazine

On the second of two sold-out nights at the Crystal Ballroom, Modest Mouse continued to lean heavy on tried-and-true material, leaving Portlanders thirsting for a taste of the elusive "forthcoming album" that the band's been working on for the last several years. Photos by Ryan Beane.

“You think there’s going to be new music?” a pumped fan asked me in the minutes before Modest Mouse took the Crystal Ballroom stage for the second night in a row on Friday, August 2. “I really hope we get to hear some new shit!”

Night two of Modest Mouse’s back-to-back tour opening shows in Portland, like the first, did not bring with it the debut of any new music—and that was Good News for People Who Love Bad News. Tipping a hat to the album that likely introduced most of those in attendance to the band, lead singer Isaac Brock kicked off the show with a reserved version of “The World at Large,” and ended up playing seven of the album’s 16 tracks, including an evil rendition of “Satin in a Coffin” while excluding the album’s—and quite possibly the band’s—biggest hit: “Float On.”

While the show seemed to have a rushed vibe (which could probably be chalked up to Brock packing 20 songs into an hour and 35 minutes—not counting his customary 20-plus-minute wait before the encore), it lacked the tribal drum solos and psychedelic interludes of past Modest Mouse performances, often felt claustrophobic with eight members on the stage, and didn’t include a single new song. (To be fair, they did play two songs that have yet to be put on an album: “Shit In Your Cut,” which debuted in 2013, and "Sugar Boats"—aka “Heart of Mine”—a song that was originally heard at the Frost Revival Festival in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2012.)

Yet, it was anything but a disappointment.

Quite the contrary. Extended bouts of applause, contagious head banging, word-for-word singalongs, and giddy members of the crowd high-fiving each throughout the show painted a completely different picture. It was a picture of ecstatic fans getting the lucky opportunity to see one of their favorite bands in a venue that Brock and company have a lot a of history in. The picture was a testament to the strength of Modest Mouse’s catalog, and the myriad of ways Brock is able to form set lists out of that material.

Case in point, despite my disappointment regarding the lack of new material and psychedelic solos, I still bought a T-shirt. Why? Because the tease of “Perpetual Motion Machine” in “Trailer Trash” was devastating, “Shit In Your Cut” was pure evil, the rendition of “Dance Hall” had so much punk in its roots that it was disappointing a mosh pit didn’t break out right there and then, and they closed with “Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice on Ice, Alright”—I repeat, they closed with “Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice on Ice, Alright!”

You would have bought a T-shirt too.

Photos by Ryan Beane—check out a full gallery of the show.

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