The US Open of Surf came to a close this Sunday, in Surf City USA (aka my home town of Huntington Beach). If you want to read about the riots, read the news, I’m too embarrassed that inland-visitors would ruin it for everyone and vandalize our usually peaceful city. I was at the beach on Friday to watch Modest Mouse. I know, I know, I should have also watched the surf and explored the booths more. But I wasn’t really in the mood. Maybe next year, if there is a next year. For Friday, To be quite honest, the people watching was enough.
A few quick comments on Modest Mouse’s performance: they rock, because they’re a rocking band. But the concert came to an abrupt close, no encore, no thank you. Isaac Brock was over it – but this isn’t new news for any true MM fans. If I didn’t know any better I’d say Matt Costa (the opener and a local) was more entertaining with his poppy beach songs. Especially when he played the popular Mr. Pitiful. While I’m still stoked I finally saw Modest Mouse in concert, most of the crowd was bummed because they failed to play their one big radio hit, Float On. To true fans, they still rocked a set of young and old songs. To say the least, however, the obnoxious early pubescent crowd seemed more into riding everything, than Gravity Rides Everything.
Below are some photos I took of the pier, the crowd, the stage, all highlighted against the setting sun.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your own thoughts on the show, the weekend, or the rioters below.
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I must confess, the first Modest Mouse album that ever graced my ears was Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004), the album that produced one of the catchiest damn radio hits from a scrawny indie band (you know the one) ever. Ever since, the Issaquah, WA band has never quite been able to escape the limelight. Consequently, diehard fans of their earlier work would claim that you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you neglected to rifle through their discography, retrospectively. The album preceding GNFPWLBN was The Moon & Antarctica (2000), and since that’s not the album I chose to talk about today, I’ll keep it real short and say that it’s nearly goddamn perfect. So listen to it. Shoo. But its 1997 predecessor, The Lonesome Crowded West, is not to be overlooked.
Earlier this year, Pitchfork released a forty-five minute documentary on the making of The Lonesome Crowded West. It’s a rare look into the humble beginnings of a band that would later become stadium sellers, at a time when most of them weren’t old enough to get drinks at the bars they were playing in. Some of my favorite moments are the interviews with Isaac Brock himself, declaring his contempt for urban sprawl with a pronounced lisp and a sleeping cat draped upon his lap. Another shining moment is a short clip of the late Elliott Smith, shyly admitting that the upcoming Modest Mouse were “innovative and emotional.” There’s an interview with Modest Mouse’s arguably biggest influence and contemporary, the recently established Built to Spill, also singing the young band’s praises. The doc delves into each song individually, beginning with the moody, semi-autobiographical “Trailer Trash,” an angsty, yet tongue-in-cheek image of a broken trailer park family, a “short love and a long divorce / with a couple of kids of course,” and the protagonist “shouting that you’re all fakes!” in a Holden Caulfield-like fashion. “Trucker’s Atlas” is a rolicking, ten-minute ode to the life of a touring band in a time before GPS and smart phones. “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine” functions as an introductory piece to the whole album, and proves to be an elegant teaser of the many reaches of Isaac’s voice and emotion displayed throughout the record. “Doin The Cockroach” breaks out into a drum-heavy groove number, daring the audience not to dance. “I’m trying to drink away the part of the day that I cannot sleep away” laments Brock on “Polar Opposites,” becoming one of the most memorable and awfully apt lyrics of the album.
It’s an album for modern-age transcendentalists, for those who think strip-malls are ugly as hell, for those who get drunk on the Amtrak and who have ever had the urge to skip out on responsibility and road trip across the country. It was a prophetic album that pumped life into American post-punk at a crucial time, and is still a joyous listen nearly fifteen years later.