“I know I mumble, and I do not give a fuck,” announced Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock about 30 minutes into their Columbus show at Express Live! last Wednesday. That sentence pretty much sums up the band’s entire career, and the people love them for it.
You never know quite what you’re gonna get with a Mouse show, and I think that maybe goes for the members of the band too. Brock, the leader of the long-running Washington state indie-rockers, is a bit of a notorious curmudgeon who pretty much does whatever he wants on a whim, even if he’s not entirely sure what it is that he wants. I’ve seen them be great and I’ve seen them be sloppy, sometimes simultaneously, but they’re usually always worth watching.
They’ve played Columbus many times over the last few years, including closing out Promowest Fest in 2016, so we know they can deliver the hits. This show was not about that. Taking the stage in a pink poncho (I’ve got no insight into the fashion choice, it was a gorgeous night with no rain clouds to be seen), Brock led his eight-piece band into the delicate chords of “Strangers to Ourselves,” a very subtle start for a rock show in front of 5,000 fans. “So far this is going beautifully,” he slurred after about ninety seconds of music.
The group touched on tracks from throughout their 25-year career over the course of the next two hours, pulling out some serious deep cuts and peppering in a few more well-known tunes. They have cultivated a particularly unique sound, swaying from faux-disco to pseudo-Americana, but it’s all pushed through Brock’s lackadaisical lens. It’s not that he doesn’t care, but if those guitar noodles are more than a little off-key, that’s just what you get.
His band is top-notch, breaking out some unconventional instrumentation like violin and tuba to bring the diverse batch of songs to life. But it’s definitely Brock’s show, the crowd waiting with baited-breath to try to catch whatever colloquialism might next drip from his lips. They mostly stuck to the music, and after a sludgy run through the 2014 rarity track “Cowboy Dan” (with just enough Western flair to warrant the song’s title), the group walked offstage without a word.
It was a long enough break that many fans did start to exit the venue, but the band returned and fired through another five songs, including “The World At Large” from their 2004 breakthrough album Good News For People Who Like Bad News, but again exited without playing arguably their two biggest signature songs.
After another long wait that left the crowd at about half of its original capacity, they returned for a second encore, wrapping up with fan-favorite ‘The Good Times Are Killing Me,” finally capping up a long, winding show that still didn’t touch on the tracks that they’re most known for. But hey, this is a guy that made it to the biggest point in his career and then took eight years to release a new album. I don’t think any of us are gonna tell him what to do.
Modest Mouse setlist:
1. Strangers to Ourselves
2. Missed the Boat
3. Black Cadillacs
4. The Ground Walks, With Time In a Box
6. Perfect Disguise
7. Autumn Beds
8. This Devil’s Workday
9. Satin in a Coffin
10. Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset
11. Sugar Boats
12. Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
13. Lampshades on Fire
14. Parting of the Sensory
15. A Different City
16. Cowboy Dan
17. Be Brave
18. Wild Packs of Family Dogs
19. The View
20. Satellite Skin
21. The World At Large
22. Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In (Positive Negative)
23. What People Are Made Of
24. The Good Times Are Killing Me