At 9 a.m. today (Friday, January 29), tickets for the Modest Mouse's July 8 concert at Bayfront Park go on sale. Yes, it is a coheadlining tour with Long Island emo rockers Brand New, but it still takes a moment to wrap my head around the fact that Modest Mouse, the band that once seemed like indie rock's secret handshake, are playing at (and have a good chance of selling out) a 10,000-seat venue.
Modest Mouse came into my life in 1998. Singer Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah Green, and bassist Eric Judy took the stage at a pizza place in the student union of Florida State's campus. At night, the pizza joint doubled as a concert hall. The Washington trio's live energy highlighted with Brock's furious vocals made a fan of everyone in the room. And it ain't easy to be the most exciting thing in the room when the room is filled with pizza.
The album they were promoting at the time, The Lonesome Crowded West, was a lo-fi masterpiece that never got tiring, no matter how many times you ran it through your CD player. Brock belted out poetics that alternated between wit ("Opinions were like kittens/I was giving them away"), beauty ("Standing in the tall grass thinking nothing"), and heartbreak (pick any line from "Trailer Trash"). At the turn of the century, if you liked the movie Fight Club, read the books of Paul Auster, and dug the music of Modest Mouse, you were all right. You had good taste, a sense of humor, and were willing to dig for gold off pop culture's beaten path.
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So it was jarring when Modest Mouse licensed "Gravity Rides Everything" to soundtrack a Nissan commercial. Did this mean Modest Mouse was now soccer-mom music? It got even more bizarre when "Float On" was played on mainstream radio and when We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank made it to number one on Billboard's album charts. Not to mention the mindfuck that is the Kidz Bop version of "Float On."
Fortunately success hasn't gone to Modest Mouse's head. Last year's Strangers to Ourselves, the band's sixth album, revealed a lyricist who seemed as alienated as ever, even if the record's production is more polished than you would ever expect to hear from those punks in the pizza shop. That's growing up, I suppose.
The half dozen times I'd seen Modest Mouse live, the roster has gone from a trio to an octet, but the quality has ranged from fantastic to unforgettable. So, however it happened, I'm grateful the numbers have swelled and instead of only a couple of hundred people in our fair city who appreciate Modest Mouse, the numbers will be in the thousands.