Modest Mouse Concert Review

Written by on November 9, 2018

By Brian Lange

When Modest Mouse takes the stage in 2018, it’s a sight to behold. The indie rock band that cut their teeth playing local shows as a power trio in the Pacific Northwest now plays stages like the Wellmont in Montclair with eight musicians. 20-year-old songs – originally recorded with just guitars, bass, and drums – may now include strings, pump organs, or additional percussion. The band has been around so long that they “sold out” back when “selling out” was still a thing, except to them it was a method of genuinely expanding their sound.

The performance on October 10th at the Wellmont began with “Interstate 8,” a song from their early EP of the same name, and I crossed my fingers hoping for a night leaning towards old deep cuts. That was not what I got, and interestingly, they didn’t quite stick to the hits either. Modest Mouse setlists are known to be all over the place, and this show was no exception. A few crowd pleasers from their later albums turned up, such as “Lampshades on Fire” and “Dashboard,” but the show mostly consisted of more obscure songs from each album. For a band with such a large number of songs I would love to see live, I was surprised how thoroughly they were able to dance around what I was looking for.

There were still a handful of songs I really enjoyed, however. “Perfect Disguise” is a pretty little song that functions sort of as an interlude on their album The Moon & Antarctica, but given the full band treatment, it’s absolutely beautiful. It was nice hearing “Out of Gas,” a deeper cut from my absolute favorite album of theirs, The Lonesome Crowded West, but it was the only song from the album that they played. They absolutely broke my heart when they teased a few seconds of “Trailer Trash” and never actually played it. The encore ended with “Dramamine,” the excellent opener to their debut album, and it was a nice note to end on.

The show was ultimately a fun experience. I enjoyed the opening band, Tropical F*** Storm, though I couldn’t help but wonder if their music was too noisy for a crowd Modest Mouse was bringing in. Modest Mouse’s set consisted of a lot of good songs, but I felt the great ones were a little few and far between. Even still, the performances from the eight-piece band were tight, and I will definitely catch them the next time they come around with hopes for a better batch of songs.