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Modest Mouse – March 03 2005 – Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium

Modest Mouse

I started out my night with a couple of drinks at Sancho’s Broken Arrow, next to the Fillmore. I always knew that Sancho’s is a hippie bar, and stayed well-away from it. Unfortunately, there is nowhere else to drink near the Fillmore, so my friend and accompaniment, Vickie succeeded in convincing me to go in.

I did not previously know that Sancho’s is dedicated to the living memory of the Grateful Dead. The walls, floors and ceiling are spackled with an endless collage of photos, ticket stubs and other artistic renderings strictly Dead-related. I found a lone painting of Eric Clapton hanging above a table and made that our immoveable station.

See, I hate jam bands. If there’s one thing I can’t stomach it’s white trustafrians noodle dancing to three hours of Caucasian funk-soul. I mean what the eff is a String Cheese Incident, anyway?


I’ll take Primus. They were a digestible funk-rock band because they followed song structures that had a coherent beginning and ending; and in general, had a rock and roll appeal that supplemented the slap-funk edge perfectly. (Plus, that was the 90’s, and Primus sounded good between Ministry and Butthole Surfers on a mix-tape.) Nowadays, Les Claypool has gone to the extreme, abandoning the rock edge and turning his group into a side-show freak funk circus. Way to miss the mark, mister!

After Vickie and I had this discussion, we headed over to catch Modest Mouse. Vickie loves jam bands; she can eat a Q.P. of mushroom and noodle away for days on end. So she was really disappointed that this show followed the Rock and Roll itinerary of an hour-long set. (Myself being a Denim Demon, I would expect nothing else.) And so our discussion continued.

Thus began the slow rationalization that led me to a mildly disturbing, but nonetheless exciting epiphany: Modest Mouse is a jam band.

I have seen the Mouse 47 times since 1997, in 7 states. They are rarely the same line-up, and they always have guest musicians, vocalists, dancers and guerilla-suit wearers. They play their songs in a familiar fashion, though historically out-of-tune (except to Isaac’ Brocks substance-effected ear) and with longer interludes and occasional space-jams that make hands go up into the air above the gyrating crowd. Sounds pretty jammy when you think about it…

Of late, Modest Mouse, has had a more solid structure. Front man Isaac Brock and bassist, Eric Judy have floated on the modest raft unchangingly since day one. But drummer from inception, Jeremiah Greene had a short personal and musical departure last year, and the band picked up a replacement. Jeremy eventually returned (but apparently the group didn’t have the heart to off replacement, Benjamin Weikel; so they now play with two full-time percussionists).

Dann Gulucci, of the Murder City Devils, who also co-wrote and played on parts of Lonesome Crowded West, is also now a permanent guitar/keyboard fixture. Good choice, too; rumor has it Dann wrote Float On, the groups Grammy-nominated first chart hit.

The bands current solidity has paid off in quality on a massive level. They are in tune, and solid, playing to sold-out crowds (like this one) and traveling the world with better accommodations than driving around in a Budget rental van, as they did in the late 90’s .

The epic (no pun) quality of Modest Mouse these days is mind-blowing. Every time I see them is the best ever, and this gig is no exception. Nothing could change their genius or my attraction to their creativity. I will see them anywhere they play, anytime. Apparently, that makes me a Mouse-head. But at least I don’t noodle dance; and at least they don’t make me stand through a three hour set.

And that’s, like, a totally perfectly balanced world, dude. Like, it kinda reminds me of the medicine wheel…


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