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Modest Mouse and Brand New Team Up for Queens Gig: Concert Review

Modest Mouse live 2014 P
Paul Familetti

The Bottom Line

New Yorkers were treated to spectacular doubles action on the former US Open tennis court.

Venue

Forest Hills Stadium
New York
(Saturday, August 9)

For many years, Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, New York stood derelict and empty. Built in 1923 for the US Open, it hosted the prestigious tennis tournament until 1978, when it moved to nearby Flushing Meadows. But the location also doubled up as a concert venue, and in the 1960s and 1970s, the venue was graced by the giants of music as well as tennis — the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan all played there. Still, despite continued use as a tennis club, it fell into a state of disrepair.

After a multi-million dollar refurbishment, however, it re-opened as a music venue last year, with incredibly successful UK folk rock act Mumford & Sons playing the first show in nearly two decades there last summer. Saturday was the third concert to be held at the venue. A co-headlining affair between Long Island’s Brand New and Issaquah, Wash.’s most successful indie outfit, Modest Mouse, it brought together acts who have both found mainstream success on their own rather idiosyncratic terms.

Formed in 2000, Brand New started life as an angst-ridden pop-punk act, inspired by broken hearts and ideas of revenge, but soon morphed into one of the most acclaimed experimental art-rock outfits in contemporary music. It was easy to see why tonight. They began with four songs from their last record, 2009’s Daisy. Their most abrasive, least accessible record, it was certainly a ballsy introduction — although there’s some crossover between the two fanbases, those who discovered Modest Mouse through their radio hit “Float On” may not have realized what they were in for.

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Still, it wasn’t all deliberately difficult, and the hook-laden bursts of “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades," “Okay I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t” and “Seventy Times 7” prompted crowd-pleasing surges of emotive energy. Of course, this being Brand New, they soon shifted gears again, steering the last part of their set into startling dark territory. All taken from third record, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, the band’s final seven songs are glowering and gloomy, not least the foreboding one-two punch of “Luca” and “Limousine (MS Redbridge)." The quiet, gentle singalong of “Jesus Christ” was a brief reprieve — and, as voices all around the stadium joined in, proof that there were a great deal of people present for the first headline act — before they finished off with a warped and disturbing version of “You Won’t Know”.

As a prelude to Modest Mouse, it was perfect — a musical ride as unpredictable as the career of the Issaquah band and its singer, the ever irascible and wild Isaac Brock. He may be the frontman of a Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling band, but Brock continues to beat to the march of his own drum. For example, it’s been seven years since the band’s last full-length album, and one of the most noticeable comments Brock made to the crowd tonight was that there was a tennis court next to his house — and that it was always full of meth addicts. His records might always hit the top of the Billboard charts nowadays, but it’s clear he’s made no concessions as a result of being in the mainstream.

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It’s unsurprising, then, that the band, who had two drummers throughout, played a set that was a solid cross-section of its 21-year career to date. It began with two songs, “The World At Large” and “Ocean Breathes Salty," from 2004’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News — the record which spawned “Float On” — before mixing it up drastically. There was a vigorous, blistering rendition of “Doin’ The Cockroach” and a forlorn, intense performance of “Cowboy Dan”, both from 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West, as well as a charged version of the anthemic “Dashboard”, a fierce runthrough of the bellicose “Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes” and a welcome appearance of the incredibly catchy existential ponderings of deep cut “Never Ending Math Equation”, as well as three brand new songs — proof, perhaps, that a new album is on the way. Of the main set, only “Fire It Up” disappointed, noticeably lacking in energy compared to the precise, passionate and powerful pace of the rest of the set.

After a gorgeous version of “Custom Concern” kicked off the encore, any fear that “Float On” wouldn’t make an appearance — it hadn’t been played during their previous three concerts — were assuaged. Unsurprisingly, the crowd went crazy. That energy, of both band and fans, bled into night’s final number, “The Good Times Are Killing Me”, ironically turning a song about self-destructive hedonism into an anthem of pure positivity and triumph.

For both bands, and the venue, that was the overall takeaway of the evening. It didn’t only anoint Brand New and Modest Mouse as pioneers — proof that you can succeed by doing things your way — but also demonstrated that Forest Hills is, once again, a true contender as a New York City venue. Good news for, well, pretty much everyone.

Brand New Set List:

Sink
Gasoline
At the Bottom
You Stole
Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades
I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light
Brothers
Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don't
Seventy Times 7
Sowing Season
Millstone
Luca
Limousine (MS Rebridge)
Jesus
Degausser
You Won't Know

Modest Mouse Set List:

The World at Large
Ocean Breathes Salty
Doin' the Cockroach
Dashboard
Gravity Rides Everything
Lampshades On Fire
Cowboy Dan
This Devil's Workday
Shit In Your Cut
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
Never Ending Math Equation
Sugar Boats
Fire It Up
A Different City

Encore:

Custom Concern
Float On
The Good Times Are Killing Me

Paul Familetti