At first glance, Brand New and Modest Mouse might seem like unusual touring partners. Both fall loosely into the “alternative” rock genre, and both have large, strong followings of loyal fans. Yet the crossover of those fan groups might be somewhat limited and divided by age – Modest Mouse has been around for nearly a decade longer, meaning that they have built up a somewhat older following than Brand New’s millennial core. Both bands are in a bit of a comeback phase right now – Modest Mouse released Strangers to Ourselves, their first album of new material since 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, last year, while Brand New recently released the singles “Mene” in April 2015 and “I Am a Nightmare” in May 2016, their first new releases since Daisy in 2009, with a new album to follow soon.
The local stop for this tour occurred recently at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The tour has been a true co-headlining experience, and as such the bands have traded off from one night to the next which of them played first and which closed the show. For the show here, Brand New took to the stage first, followed by Modest Mouse.
Jesse Lacey and company (guitarist Vincent Accardi, bassist Garret Tierney, and drummer Brian Lane) opened the evening up playing the fast, high-energy “Mene,” which segued almost seamlessly into “Gasoline” from Daisy and provided a rocking start to the evening. “Millstone” from 2006’s The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me took the tempo down a bit while still maintaining the band’s intensity. The band’s set ran the gamut of their catalog, from the crashing punk of those first few tracks to the near folk-punk of “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light” (from 2003’s Deja Entendu) and “Jesus Christ” (from The Devil and God…). This kind of variety, along with choruses made for singing along (which the audience did, in abundance) displayed clearly why the band has become so popular with such a large and diverse fan base. Other highlights from the set included “Ok I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” and “Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades” from Deja Entendu, and “1996” from their only recently officially released Leaked Demos 2006 EP. The band played a full sixteen-song set, but did not return for the encore that they have been doing on the nights where they close the show.
Modest Mouse first came to the area for their new album last September playing a show at the Echostage in DC, but they had no problem transitioning to the much larger stage of Merriweather. They opened the set with “The World at Large” from the album that broke them out to a wider audience, 2004’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and then went further back to 2000’s The Moon & Antarctica for “A Different City.” Frontman Isaac Brock spoke little between songs, instead seeming to prefer to just keep the music going nearly non-stop outside of the band’s frequent instrument changes. While many of the band’s biggest hits were represented in their set – “Dashboard” and “Float On” took their central places within the set – the real surprises lay within the band’s deeper catalog choices. The angular, Pixies-inspired punk of their early work on 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West was represented in songs like “Doin’ the Cockroach” and “Shit Luck,” while songs like “Satin in a Coffin” (with its distinctive banjo line played by Brock) and “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” showed the band’s more experimental side. Of course the new album was well represented, with six tracks including “Lampshades On Fire,” “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box,” and “Shit in Your Cut” blending in seamlessly amongst the older material. The band closed the night with a four-song encore, ending with their anthemic fan favorite “Fire It Up.”
At the end of the night, though the two bands may not have seemed to have much crossover at first glance, they ended up complimenting each other well for a great night of edgy, alternative rock. Some in the audience chose to cherry pick the show, coming only to see their preferred band, but those who stayed for the whole evening got the best deal – two bands who, despite some time away from the spotlight, have returned at the peak of their powers.
Photos by Matt Condon
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