As the cool fall weather sets in, not everyone can be driven indoors. On Friday night, Modest Mouse fans at the Lifestyle Community Pavilion bore through temperatures in the low 40s to experience a headlining set well over 90 minutes.
Hoods and hats quickly stuffed the pit section of the crowd while the grass section filled to the back with many fans donning blankets around their shoulders.
Fortunately for the chilly fans, the night’s lineup featured only one opening act, Hop Along. Squeezed in front of the headliner’s expansive stage setup, the Philadelphia indie-rock band sported a punk influenced sound reminiscent of early ‘90s college rock. While more straightforward than Modest Mouse, the group’s songs feature similar dynamic builds and brooding lyrics.
Frontwoman Frances Quinlan drove the performance with vocals that seemed to ache with emotion before reaching a yelp, oddly similar to that of Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock. The crowd seemed enthused yet uninvolved. Hop Along’s music was well-received but didn’t include the flair necessary to garner more crowd response from fans eager only for the headliner.
In a slightly disappointing crash of drums and subdued guitar feedback, the opener brought its set to a close, beginning the wait for the night’s climax.
With the weather continuing to cool and wind chilling the necks of the crowd, the performance began. Streams of colorful light shot around the stage, spinning as if searching the crowd, as a bee-like buzzing drone played through the speakers. Without drama or showmanship, Modest Mouse plainly took the stage.
The set began with “The Tortoise and the Tourist,” a less popular take from their latest album “Strangers to Ourselves” that failed to fully energize the crowd. When the band broke into the angst-filled “Black Cadillacs,” the crowd began to come to life, bouncing in unison and chanting on the choruses.
The Issaquah, Washington, band commanded all the space the stage could offer with an eight-member lineup. The light show continued, with the fog often obscuring the furthest-back musicians.
The band paused briefly as the majority of the members switched instruments for “Missed the Boat,” a crowd favorite. After almost every song the members would stop to change instruments, but the most common iteration included two guitars, bass, two keyboards, two drum sets, additional percussion, a lead vocal and backing vocals.
With the full band, Modest Mouse sounded like an eerie, yet energized circus act, most apparent on “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes.” Some numbers saw the band picking up horns, banjo, violin and double bass — at times bringing a ninth performer to the stage. On the banjo-driven “Devil’s Workday” and “Satin in a Coffin,” the sound reached an almost Dixieland-style romp.
With six formally released albums, a number of EPs and multiple releases of rarities or unreleased tracks, Modest Mouse had a large discography to cover. Friday night’s performance spanned the majority of their material, with multiple songs dating back to the ‘90s. The performance leaned most heavily on “Strangers” and the popular “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” album.
While the crowd often remained in a lull from the cold, hits such as “Lampshades on Fire,” “Float On” and “Dashboard” earned notably energized responses. The set list favored more upbeat tempos, with slower songs such as “The World at Large” and “Gravity Rides Everything” excluded.
Despite the somewhat limited stage space, the band remained lively throughout, often altering songs to intensify into extended instrumental outros. Brock held the best stage presence, unrelentingly locking his legs into a power stance as he strummed his guitar violently and screamed to the crowd.
Brock also proved fairly chatty with the audience, updating the crowd as he repeatedly changed outfits to match the weather. At one point he revealed that he chose to perform sober, noting that his dad had advised him otherwise.
After more than an hour, the band unconvincingly left the stage after performing “Wicked Campaign,” a song choice as equally puzzling as the opener. The buzzing and hyperactive lights resumed, clearly implying an encore, this time lasting for six minutes before the band reappeared.
The four-song encore included a reward for old fans that lasted the night, “Out of Gas,” and closed with an extended rendition of “Good Times are Killing Me” to send the chilled fans home.