The last time I saw Portland-based indie rock powerhouse Modest Mouse, "Float On" had cracked the mainstream Top 40 and been nominated for a Grammy award. It was 2005 and the height of success for their album, "Good News For People Who Love Bad News." That show happened during my freshman year at the University of Oregon. My best friend and I took the bus from campus to the McDonald Theater in Eugene where Modest Mouse brought the roof down.
This past Friday night, Sept. 22, Modest Mouse and Built to Spill converged on the same stage for an indie rock throwdown during the last concert of the summer season at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Nearly 13 years later, Modest Mouse brought the metaphorical roof down at the Amphitheater.
Despite starting more than 30 minutes late, Modest Mouse hit the stage to chanting and a roar of applause. Lead singer Isaac Brock immediately took to the microphone and thanked the crowd for their patience and started in on the title track from their latest album, "Strangers to Ourselves." They followed it up with "3rd Planet" and then hit an amped up stride with the next three songs.
"Tiny Cities Made of Ashes," one of my favorite Modest Mouse songs from 2000's "The Moon & Antarctica" album, pumped up the energy with the vibrating bass line, shout singing and the talk of "drinkin', drinkin', drinkin', drinkin' Coca Coca Cola." "Bury Me With It" spoke to the weight on all of your shoulders and led perfectly into another one of the band's biggest hits — "Dashboard." As soon as the intro started, the crowd burst out in cheers, singing along and dancing to the jam.
Brock still has the bravado to command the stage and entertain alongside his extremely talented bandmates. Watching from the front row, you could see the smile on guitarist Jim Fairchild's face as he totally shred. Lisa Molinaro impressed me and everyone else I've spoken to since the show. The multi-instrumentalist showed her chops on the viola and had a glowing, positive energy on stage.
After returning to the stage for the encore, Modest Mouse closed the show with their biggest hit, "Float On." My friends and I had already started walking out by the time the song, "Float On" started, but stopped in our tracks and danced it out under a streetlamp outside of the Amphitheater with a stranger as her young son shook his head in embarrassment.
Modest Mouse put on a great show, often meeting and, during some songs, exceeding expectations. Nearly 13 years after the first time I caught the band live, they continue to prove why Brock's signature voice, catchy lyrics and raw energy have made Modest Mouse one of the biggest and most successful bands in indie rock. I wish they would have played "The World At Large," but I guess I'll just have to cross my fingers for next time.