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Timothy Finn blogs about the Kansas City music scene

Modest Mouse gives Uptown crowd a reminder of its past, glimpse of its future

07/14/2014 9:58 AM

07/14/2014 11:00 AM

Modest Mouse is a band in stasis. Seven years have passed since it released an album, so when the band announced its summer tour dates, it aroused more speculation about new songs and, finally, a new recording.

Sunday night, the Washington state band, led by singer/songwriter Isaac Brock, performed at the Uptown Theater, drawing a full house of almost 2,300 people. They got a rousing 19-song, 90-minute show that included several new songs and plenty of favorites but suffered sound problems throughout.

Fans also got a band fortified by as many as five guest musicians who added horns, violin, keyboards and extra percussion. They also added to the bass-heavy, high-volume wall of sound coming off the stage, which consistently overwhelmed Brock’s vocals.

Sound issues erupted early. “Black Cadillacs” and “Invisible,” the two openers, were marred by squalls of feedback. A few songs later, referring to a loud hum onstage, Brock asked the crowd: “Do you hear that noise?” Yes, we did. Several songs after that, he stopped the show for several minutes to fix another problem onstage.

None of that seemed to matter much to the throng on the floor, which was packed wall-to-wall. For nearly every song, fans reacted to the intro and Brock, especially favorites like “Dramamine” and “Dashboard.”

New songs like “Pistol,” a jackhammer rock tune, and “Sugar Boats” kept the vibe on the floor percolating.

Brock traded his guitar for a banjo on several tunes, including “Satin in a Coffin,” a track from one of the band’s most beloved albums, “Good News for People Who Love Bad News,” now 10 years old. Several songs were embellished with horns, including “The Good Times Are Killing Me,” another track off “Good News.” And nearly every song featured excess percussion — there were three drummers — and keyboards.

But for most of the show the volume was so high and the mix so heavy it was difficult to discern the individual parts. Even Brock’s brief conversations with the crowd were difficult to understand.

Perhaps as a reward for the early sound issues, Modest Mouse played “Float On,” its biggest hit and a signature song it has consistently omitted from the set list. The crowd recognized that one immediately and floated along to its jaunty, breezy vibe. The response was similar for “Custom Concern,” a track from the band’s debut full-length, “This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About,” now 18 years old.

Despite the sound issues, this crowd seemed happy to indulge in Modest Mouse’s glorious past and enjoy several glimpses into its still-uncertain future.

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