Brand New / Modest Mouse

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 – Koka Booth Amphitheater

RDU Music braved the steamy, near-ceaseless heat of a North Carolinian summer day in order to attend our second outdoor amphitheater show of the season: a co-headlined affair between transcendental post-pop-punkers, Brand New, and weirdo-indie-rock darlings, Modest Mouse.

Photographer extraordinaire Lan was able to secure a photo pass for the night which turned out to only be valid for Modest Mouse’s portion of the evening. We, as a reputable [Editor’s Note: *cough*] music publication, were a bit dismayed at the separation of church and state between the backstage staffs of each band. They apparently took the “co-headliner” moniker to heart, keeping separate books for each item on the docket such as touring chefs and press credentials. Lan was forbidden from shooting Brand New, which was unfortunate since they were the headliners of our hearts. So we had to simply enjoy the first half of the show as mere spectators. [Editor’s Note: A certain photographer might have referred to Brand New’s staff as “a bunch of jerky buttfuckers” for restricting his freedom but I’m going to chalk that up to the heat.]

We assembled the team in the late afternoon for an extremely early 5:30pm gate time. I am assuming the reason was because the city of Cary does not want undesirable rock ‘n’ roll types lingering around at night. We might make all the middle-aged white folks uncomfortable with our ability to treat those of alternative lifestyles with respect. Either way, if you have never experienced a muggy summer day in North Carolina, please allow me to describe the sensation in one word: Soupy. As in, someone poured warm soup in your pants, causing your scrotum to elongate like a melty Stretch Armstrong until your testicles are able to rest comfortably at the bottom of a pint glass.

As we narrowly escaped getting caught in a rare and beautiful sunshower, we waited in line for the doors to open and then headed in. The gate guards were more concerned with the potential smuggling of contraband in the sleeves of camping chairs than anything in my pockets which made me rue not stuffing my cargo shorts full of drugs and fireworks. I even had a minor beef with an obtuse, elderly gate guard regarding a two foot reach for Lan’s lawn chair. I debated disassembling the chair in front of her so that she could see that it was in fact an ordinary chair, which would have afforded me the added benefit of then having club-length sections of wood and metal with which to beat her senseless. Instead, I just reached for the chair despite her shrill, snarky protests and went on my merry way.

We set up on the lawn, grabbed some beers, saw some people we knew, and proceed to sweat profusely until the sun dipped behind some tall coniferous trees. This was my first excursion to Koka Booth and I must say that it was a lovely experience. Capacity of about 7,000 people, ample food and drink choices [Editor’s Note: Which is a big selling point for me since I hate overpaying for a Bud Light tallboy that will only get warm and more urine-like before I even sit down], and a lawn with a decent view of the stage. We’ll see if the experience is comparable when we return in a couple of weeks to see the musical comedy stylings of Flight of the Conchords.


Brand New

All of a sudden, Brand New was taking the stage. They were all business. Jesse briefly addressed the crowd with, “We’re Brand New. 1, 2, 3, 4…” and then it was on. BN admirably conveyed a sense of ferocity on the more rockin’ numbers, especially with the ancillary drum kit that mainly consisted of two floor toms and a crash, adding some heft to the live sound, which sounded great. Outdoor venues are largely hit-or-miss but BN sounded crisp and managed to only blow a fuse once during the louder “I can dish it out, but I can’t take it…” portion of “Limousine.”

There was a brief, chuckle-worthy false start at the beginning of “Millstone” when Jesse asked, “Can we start that one over? I’m having a heat stroke on the 3rd song.” In his defense, the heat was oppressive with the sun not yet setting behind the treeline. In fact, playing the whole set in daylight really was a detriment to the overall experience. The first time I saw BN was in the eerily dark Uptown Theatre in Kansas City back in 2007 with Thrice and mewithoutYou when the only illumination were some tall, thin rectangular pillars of white light spaced evenly at the back of the stage, lending a spooky and introspective slant to some of the darker songs on “The Devil and God…” Being a bigger fan of Brand New than Modest Mouse, I was hoping that BN would headline NC’s date of this co-headlining tour but apparently MM is the bigger draw ’round these parts.

In what I took as a subtle jab at the proprietors of the discriminatory House Bill 2, Jesse augmented the lyrics to “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light” to: “…but I am paid to make BOYS panic while I sing.” I appreciate bands NOT jumping on the cancellation bandwagon. I’d rather we all just say mean things about NC’s legislators at regularly scheduled concerts. It’s okay. You’re among friends. We also hate our bigoted governor.

A highlight toward the end of the set, Jesse started “Play Crack the Sky” solo and was then accompanied by Vin for the harmonies and some maraca/tambourine action.

4/5 stars = Great
“My bright is too slight to hold back all my dark”
[Brand New setlist][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”797″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_shadow_border” onclick=”img_link_large” img_link_target=”_blank” css_animation=”appear”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”786″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_shadow_border” onclick=”img_link_large” img_link_target=”_blank” css_animation=”appear”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”784″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_shadow_border” onclick=”img_link_large” img_link_target=”_blank” css_animation=”appear”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Modest Mouse

After Brand New closed their set and as night fell, the crowd filled in the empty spaces to the point of capacity, which was surprising to me as I think Modest Mouse is indeed a good band…just not good enough to be headlining over Brand New. Apparently, that was not the popular sentiment as the crowd erupted for MM’s opening chords with a resounding ferocity not matched earlier for BN.

Modest Mouse was given more artistic license with the lighting rig after sundown, allowing Lan to get some great shots full of purply lighting, pensive violining, and that one keyboard that you blow into. You know the one. What do they call that? Anyway, MM had a full stage setup with a variety of instruments which facilitated their ability to touch on each of their full-lengths but still focus predominately on their latest, “Strangers…” and their most popular, “Good News…”

NC really brought it for Modest Mouse. The crowd was very much into it so I am sure they enjoyed the show more than I did even thought I still enjoyed it myself. I’m just old and prefer MM’s earlier work. My opinion was not mirrored by Booth Amphitheater at large. They were stoked to have MM back after a lengthy eight year drought between records.

I was doing fine until a meathead MM fan [Editor’s Note: A variety I did not know existed.] posted up in front of me, doing that thing where he accentuates each “crucial” lyric with fist pumps and #1 fingers. Hell is indeed other people.

Me: 3/5 stars = Good
Everyone else in NC: 4/5 stars = Great
[Modest Mouse setlist]

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