In Brief: Modest Mouse @ Aragon Ballroom

This past Tuesday Modest Mouse played a sold out gig at The Aragon Ballroom. This whirl around the U.S. comes on the heels of their recently released EP No One’s First, And You’re Next. The EP is a collection of leftovers from the band’s last two records which might explain the wide ranging variety of tracks therein. The Aragon and its trademark dense mass of humanity dancefloor was especially steamy on Tuesday night. Modest Mouse’s set unfortunately failed to take into account the wretched acoustics of the venue. Hushed moments and the presence of two drummers were lost in the minefield that is Aragon’s sound system. I apologize in advance that this review is more a chastisement of the venue than anything else, but having tossed around the empty threat in the past, I solemnly vow (and recommend) to never attend another show at Aragon. It is unclear if bands realize when they are onstage that the audience is unable to appreciate nuance in a sound system and a building with acoustics that maim and muddle their sound.

Perhaps the biggest shock was the omission from the setlist of the group’s breakthrough/crossover hit “Float On.” Rather, the Mouse played extensively from 2000s The Moon & Antarctica (which coincidentally was recorded in Chicago) hitting on fan favorites “3rd Planet,” “Gravity Rides Everything” and “Wild Packs Of Family Dogs.”

For me one of the night’s high points was “Satellite Skin,” which eschewed the tics and rage inherent in singer Isaac Brock’s repertoire in exchange for well honed pop. This however was followed by the dissonant “Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes” which allowed Brock to air his mania. The band on this tour includes former Grandaddy guitarist Jim Fairchild filling in for sometime Modest Mouse member Johnny Marr. Fairchild did just fine, but lacked the mythology of Marr. It is interesting to note that only 3 tracks were played from 2007s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, the record Marr primarily played on.

So I guess the flavor of the Modest Mouse oeuvre you prefer may have determined your enjoyment level on Tuesday. I felt cheated by the venue and compiled an iTunes playlist of the show’s setlist and (upon listening) thought if only this gig took place in an environment with a halfway decent sound system because these songs are damn good.

Setlist:

King Rat
3rd Planet
Education
Black Cadillacs
Gravity Rides Everything
Shit Luck
Satellite Skin
Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes
Baby Blue Sedan
Dashboard
Dramamine
Guilty Cocker Spaniels
Blame It On The Tetons
Wild Pack Of Family Dogs
The View
Satin In A Coffin

*Encore*
Paper Thin Walls
Ohio
Parting Of The Sensory

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