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Modest Mouse brings turbulent 25th anniversary tour to The Fox Theatre

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CHLOE DOWLING | STAFF

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DECEMBER 07, 2022

Twenty-five years after the release of its acclaimed second studio album The Lonesome Crowded West, American indie-rock band Modest Mouse is honoring its success with an explosive anniversary tour. 

Original members Isaac Brock and Jeremiah Green, plus newer additions Russell Higbee and Simon O’Connor took the lead Wednesday evening; their rough, earnest energy crescendoed into a perfect celebration of the band’s striking presence in music history. Released in 1997, The Lonesome Crowded West is guitar-laden and hardcore in some places, folky and grounded in others — an ode to the ’90s band’s blurring of musical styles. 

This diversity in sound was well suited for a concert, as the band played through the album from beginning to end. Its performance was saturated with color and shifting spotlights that synced up with the music, violently cascading around the room during instrumental breaks, and simmering down to a low muted wash during heavier moments. 

The opening song “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine” featured this wild frenzy of lights, flashing green and enlivening the audience even as the performers lost themselves in the thunderous build of the guitar. Drums clashed against Brock’s rough vocals, purposefully clipped in indie over-affectation. 

Retaining this thrashing energy, Modest Mouse proved their versatility with its second song “Heart Cooks Brain.” As the band riffed a slow paced, deep triangular pattern on the guitar, blue and red lights spun around the artists to match. This visual manifestation of sound was most satisfying in “Doin’ the Cockroach,” which began with a muted color palette and dreamily swinging spotlights, building slowly to culminate in a strobe-filled, blue-green flashing, instrumental apotheosis. 

Washed in deep blue light, the band took breaks between songs to talk, with an air of casual awkwardness, to the audience. “I have no idea what the f— I’m talking about. I’m just doing it for fun,” Brock joked, after ranting about the weather. “It’s just something to do. I’ve done some other things. I thought maybe this would be the thing to try. Talking to ya and engaging.”

A folky, hoedown twang inundates The Lonesome Crowded West. With fiddling violins, a jangling guitar and addictively eccentric, over-produced laughter, “Jesus Christ Was an Only Child” almost feels like a country caricature. Despite being from the Pacific Northwest, Modest Mouse emanates a Bruce Springsteen-esque feeling of Midwestern sprawl. While more refined than their first album This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, The Lonesome Crowded West is just as focused on the road: songs such as “Out of Gas,” “Trucker’s Atlas,” and “Convenient Parking” paved out a motif for them to race along at full speed, steadily plodding to the beat of the drums, or the thump of the tires against the road.

Moments of harshness in the show juxtaposed softer ones. “Shit Luck” was chaotic and cacophonous, electric guitar shredding against Brock’s vocally scraping scream. His voice deliberately distorted in a punk-rock rounding out of the vowels as he headbanged harshly against the flashing of lights. Smoke splitting the golden spotlight into rays like an artificial sun, “Bankrupt on Selling” was significantly softer — a breath between the brashness, acoustic guitar strings gruff and nostalgic.

As the album’s closer and the show’s final song preencore, “Styrofoam Boots / It’s All Nice on Ice, Alright” was the perfect example of this. The beginning was slow and steady, with folky guitar strumming and the audience clapping along, but halfway through, at the transition between the double-song, it switched to fast paced guitar tweaking under whirling lights. 

During the encore, Modest Mouse dipped into its wider discography to feature other fan favorites, ensuring audience members’ nostalgia would extend across the entire breadth of its work as they exited the venue. Twenty-five years after The Lonesome Crowded West, Modest Mouse’s rich history and vibrance onstage promises an enduring rock legacy and more splendor to come.

Contact Vivian Stacy at 

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DECEMBER 07, 2022