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August 09, 2004 - Image 11

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2004-08-09

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michigandaily.com/arts A R T S

AUGUST 9, 2004 Li


By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Editor

When Jane's Addiction frontman
Perry Farrell birthed the original Lolla-
palooza in 1991, he imagined it as a rol-
licking freak show of
a tour, trampling
each city with a Modest
troupe of eclectic Mouse
acts (Fishbone, Vio- Monday, Aug. 2
lent Femmes, Rollins
Band). Indeed, Lol- At the Royal Oak
lapalooza is still con-
sidered to be the father of the "lifestyle"
package tours that now dominate the
summer circuit: Lilith Far, Warped Tour
and Ozzfest have all grown from Lolla-
palooza's ambitious
roots. As the years The
wore on, however,
Farrell lost interest Walkmen
in the festival, and it Wednesday,
was eventually taken Aug. 4
over by testosterone At the Blind Pig
goons and bland
"alternative" acts. It was less a lifestyle
than a cash cow, and a poor one at that.
Which is why this year was set to be
so different: Farrell was inspired again,
and he'd reached rather heartily into the
indie underground to pull together the
most impressive group of artists the tour
had ever seen. Legends like The Pixies,
Morrissey and Sonic Youth were the
main draws, but more impressive were
Farrell's invitations to younger acts: Bro-
ken Social Scene,
Danger Mouse,
TV On the Radio,
and Ann Arbor's
Wolf Eyes were
just a few of the
groups scheduled.
Despite the
undeniably strong
lineup, rumors cir-
culated, and early
last month, the
tour was cancelled
due to poor ticket
sales. Apparently
the indie under-
ground is lazy,
poor or simply
under the impres-
sion that they
could buy tickets
at the door. Never-
theless, the tour
folded, leaving MM's Eric Judy crosn
many of indie hazy line between 'A
rock's favorite
sons searching for work this summer.
Modest Mouse and The Walkmen
were two such groups. Modest Mouse,
hot on the heels of their wildly success-
ful (and profitable) new album, Good
News for People Who Like Bad News,

had taken the road less traveled: their
career started nearly a decade ago, as
unheralded, druggy Northwestern teens
playing songs about long car rides. Four
albums and a million tours later, they're
on top of the indie world. The Walkmen
followed nearly the opposite career path.
They hit the underground scene like a
bolt, riding a wave of Strokes-y New
York hype and a car commercial jingle
("We've Been Had"). Since then,
they've maintained a lower profile,
dropping the criminally underrated
Bows andArrows earlier this year. In the
past week, both of the Lollapalooza
orphans hit the Detroit/Ann Arbor area.
Modest Mouse arrived with the pres-
ence of a much larger band: Both of
their shows at the Royal Oak Music
Theatre sold out well in advance. And
judging from the line outside the door,
the kids were coming out in droves: The
success of newly-minted modern rock
staple "Float On" brought out a much
younger audience than the band has
drawn in the past. In fact, the crowd was
so underage that the night had "My First
Indie Rock Show" written all over it.
Modest Mouse took the stage to the
tune of "The View," one of the least-
exciting numbers off of Good News. To
their credit, the band reached fairly
deeply into their past, running through
favorites like "Neverending Math Equa-
tion" and "Cowboy Dan." And while
these numbers drew a surprisingly
uproarious reaction from the crowd, the
focus was clearly on the new material.
"Float On" was as buoyant and shout-
worthy as expect-
ed, and the
chirping banjo of
"Bukowski" and
searing guitar
lines of "Ocean
Breathes Salty"
were also faithful-
ly delivered.
Throughout the
show, the band
were the consum-
mate profession-
als, which was
somewhat of a
shock, given their
uneven perform-
ance history. The
band was "well
rested" according
to frontman Isaac
Brock, and the
FOREST CASEY/Diy songs were
ses the increasingly rehearsed and
alkman and Mouse driven. Despite
this, the band still
couldn't overcome its chronically poor
set list choices. "Doin' the Cockroach"
may be a fan favorite and a decent live
song, but it's hardly the band's brightest
moment. "3rd Planet" and "Wild Pack
of Family Dogs" represented the excel-

Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock shows off his newfound weight.

lent The Moon and Antarctica, but that
album's dark, spacey compositions were
left otherwise uncovered.
These may be the obvious nitpickings
of a longtime fan, but one couldn't help
notice that Modest Mouse didn't seem
themselves on stage, despite a strong
performance: They seemed sober,
happy, and content with their newfound
indie god status. The good times, it
appears, aren't so bad after all.
The Walkmen are in nearly the oppo-
site place in their careers: The steam of
an overrated debut having worn off,
they've found the live response to their
gorgeous, sprawling second record,
Bows and Arrows to be less than warm.
Despite critical praise for the album, the
band drew poorly in the spring when
they visited Detroit's Magic Stick. This
time through they visited the cozier con-
fines of Ann Arbor's Blind Pig.
The band obviously didn't let the
smaller venue bother them. They were
noticeably more lively and cohesive this
time out, instilling their reverb-laden art-
rock with a sense of urgency and pas-
sion. Rollicking numbers such as "The
Rat" and "Wake Up" absolutely explod-
ed into the crowd, with frontman Hamil-
ton Leithauser almost bursting at the
seams as he laid his cat-scratch howl
into the microphone. "Little House of
Savages" burst off the stage with an
organ riff harsh enough to scrape the
enamel off teeth, and a chorus sweet
enough to rot what's left. Even slower
numbers, such as the surprisingly warm
"What's In It For Me," sounded better
than they did months ago, the band

The Walkmen's Hamilton Leithauser reacts to "The Manchurian Candidate."

instilling them with the same guarded
optimism that makes their records so
It's unclear how MM's stadium-sized
angst or The Walkmen's dreamer
cacophony would've translated to the
festival stages of Lollapalooza. It's likely
that MM would've stolen the show with
their undeniably smart, scrappy rock,
and the The Walkmen's show would've
lost the intimacy The Blind Pig lent it.
This past week, however, fans got to
look at two bands whose current place
in the indie rock pantheon couldn't be
much different. Both are excellent

bands, and no one should begrudge
MM's newfound success: They've
earned every moment of it. In different
clubs on different nights, however, it
became clear that although Modest
Mouse has the attention of indie rock's
increasingly numerous-ears, The Walk-
men are clinging on to its heart.
Yes, we know that fellow Lolla
orphan Sonic Youth also played in
Detroit this week. Andrew Gaerig is but
one man. Check michigandaily.com for
additional pictures of Modest Mouse
and The Walkmen.

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