Last Night: Modest Mouse at the Fillmore Miami Beach

Categories: Concert Review
Logan Fazio

Modest Mouse with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Friday, June 23, 2008
The Fillmore, Miami Beach


Better Than: The mental meltdown scribbling in your seventh-grade diary.

Modest Mouse and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band kicked off their North American tour together last night to a packed, enthusiastic audience at the Fillmore Miami Beach. Modest Mouse already had an impressive warm-up opportunity of their own, having just wrapped up a U.S. tour with R.E.M., but this evening marked the first date of their latest headlining stint.

New Orleans’ the Dirty Dozen Brass Band shook up the scene with their striking and massive improv-jazz sounds. The crowd was completely enthralled with the noises coming from this eight-piece unit, which included saxophones, guitars, drums, trumpets and a trombone. Having performed on two tracks of Modest Mouse’s 2004 album Good News For People Who Love Bad News, and recorded and toured with bands like Widespread Panic, these guys were a logical choice for a support act. Probably one of the most impressive sites was when trumpet player and singer Gregory Davis managed to play two horns simultaneously. Theirs was probably one of the best sounding bands I’ve ever seen at the Fillmore, and this audience seemed to also appreciate the group’s more than 30 years of experience and talent.

After quite a lengthy pause, the quirky Washington-based Modest Mouse finally took the stage. It was apparent from the get-go that they were performing to an audience of diehard fans. Modest Mouse has earned a huge following with their heavily staccato-based music about booze, loneliness and the afterlife, among other heady, often cynical or dark, topics.

Every song selection tonight was met with a whole-hearted sing-along from fans. This crowd of mostly 18-to-30-somethings was clearly well-versed in the Modest Mouse repertoire—a surprising, but encouraging scene in our not-so-indie-oriented South Florida, especially since Modest Mouse only began to enjoy commercial success in 2003. This is a band that would usually be reserved for a small hipster portion of our population, but it has apparently reached a larger demographic. Tonight’s performance was also Modest Mouse’s first South Florida appearance since their 2006 Bang appearance, which I didn’t see, but was apparently cut short.

Front man Isaac Brock kept conversation between songs minimal, and when he did speak his voice seemed muffled by the theater’s speakers, making it hard to decipher. This didn’t really seem to matter to fans anyway. Everyone was more interested in just hearing the songs, which included a range of selections from Modest Mouse’s five-album catalog, dating as far back as 1996’s This Is A Long Drive for Someone with Nothing To Think About, but the set was most focused on picks from their 2007 fifth studio album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.

One of the most talked-about aspects of the latest release is the inclusion of former Smith’s guitarist Johnny Marr. Marr helped write and record We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, and worked so well with the band that he decided to tour with them. A few of tonight’s onlookers said they were just as thrilled to see Marr as Modest Mouse. Marr may have been a major distraction for some, but I found the two percussionists most entertaining as they moved together with perfect precision on separate drum kits.

In technical terms the show went over without a hitch. Some of the set list inclusions from We Were Dead… were “Parting of the Sensory,” “Education,” “Missed the Boat,” “Invisible” and the hit single “Dashboard,” during which the entire venue went wild dancing and singing. The band tore through other favorites like “Cowboy Dan” and “Doin’ the Cockroach” from 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West, before offering an encore of “Float On,” “Bury Me With It” and “Dramamine.”

Overall, Modest Mouse chose a well-rounded bundle of songs—enough for casual fans, but more for the hardcore devotees and whether these listeners were cynical head cases or not, I don’t think this performance couldn’t be contested by either group.

Critic’s Notebook:

Personal Bias: I have only seen Modest Mouse in a shorter-set festival line-up situation until now, so it was impressive to see the band perform a longer set of both rarities and radio hits.

Random Detail: The band’s name is derived from a Virginia Woolf passage.

By the Way: Check for a complete set list and other random notes at the Modest Mouse fan site www.interstate-8.com.

– Monica Cady


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