Austin City Limits Festival
September 18, 2004
What’s worse than a bad one-hit wonder? A good one-hit wonder. It would be great if all the attention thrust upon Modest Mouse’s new album “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” and their hit single “Float On” continues far into the future. They’re a talented rock band that is eleven years old and deserves some mainstream attention. Still, after observing the crowd at their Saturday afternoon performance at the Austin City Limits Festival, I’ve got a feeling they’ve been over-hyped. Their stage was unexplainably packed, and their audience ranged from old men to thirteen year-old girls. The hipsters were outsourced. I got the weird vibe that aside from the Pixies’ night set, the Modest Mouse performance was the “hip” or “cool” place to be or be seen Saturday.
Modest Mouse was the sound of bewilderment, frustration, and elation. Their sound was hard to pin down, which was good. Just like in life, there was no simple answer to them. They topped harsh undertones with beauty, and they rocked. Sure, the band loved to take detours to use horns and pedal steel guitars and blah blah blah, but they were still an angry, muscular rock band most of the time. They played a lot of new songs, so this made sense, considering the new tunes are their most rockin’ and concise to date. The only older song I recognized in the set was their college radio single from their previous album, “The Moon and Antarctica.”
Besides their love for eccentric rhythms and meters in a pop/rock setting, Modest Mouse’s main strength was guitarist Isaac Brock’s voice. While Black Francis’ schizophrenic nature in The Pixies seems to only be alive to add character to the songs, Brock’s unmasked testament of confusion regarding unanswered questions about life and death seemed to be for real. Brock’s voice was soothing, anxious, forceful, angry, and peaceful. This is probably why “Float On” is so popular. With his voice, Brock creates a vibe that says, “Yes, things are weird, and it’s ok. Life is not a percentage.”
Unfortunately, the band didn’t say one word to the crowd. Also, they left the stage after forty-five minutes, fifteen minutes still left in their set. I felt scammed. And they didn’t play my favorite new song, “Bury Me With It.” The band put on a good show, but everything surrounding it made it a bad experience for me. I’d rather be in a theater with them for an hour and a half.