Modest Mouse throws it back with nostalgic oldies at Open Air Theatre


Noelani Sapla

Modest Mouse lead singer Isaac Brock performing “The World At Large” to open their set.

Veteran rock band Modest Mouse showed their lasting power as one of the genre’s most enjoyable bands when they performed at the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre on Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Currently, Modest Mouse is on tour to support their newest album “The Golden Casket” which was released this past June and San Diego served as their second California stop. 

Known for songs like “Float On” and “Lampshades on Fire,” Modest Mouse has spent nearly three decades as one of alternative’s most prolific, evolving bands. Not many groups can say their albums vary as much as Modest Mouse. As much as their roster has changed over the years, the one consistency has been the band’s driving force: lead singer Isaac Brock. Much of the band’s subject material has been based on Brock’s personal experiences, including his longtime battle with substance abuse.  

Despite the location of the concert being just steps from the campus library at San Diego State, the crowd was full of mostly middle-aged concertgoers, which is unsurprising considering the band has been making music since before many SDSU students were born. 

The night started out with a sparsely filled crowd, partially owing to freeway traffic and the massive lines at the concession stands.  

The first performer of the night was The Districts, an indie rock band from Philadelphia opening for Modest Mouse on multiple legs of their nationwide tour. The members came onto the stage looking like they just finished a shift at the Westfield Mission Valley Vans store but immediately got to rocking without any introduction. 

Their brief set started off with “Cheap Regrets,” a song with an insane guitar riff that got most of the crowd up on their feet. Drummer Braden Lawrence’s performance especially stood out, as his playing had so much force that concertgoers could feel the thumping pulse from the drum within their chests. The whole band brought really great energy to the stage, a nice comparison to their mellow studio records. 

The Districts' lead singer Rob Grote enthusiastically singing the chorus of "Cheap Regrets."
The Districts’ lead singer Rob Grote enthusiastically singing the chorus of “Cheap Regrets.” (Noelani Sapla)

After a prompt 30-minute intermission, Modest Mouse strolled onstage and started off their nearly two-hour set with “The World At Large.” Their set definitely contained less movement than the more youthful Districts but garnered a lot of loud cheers every time they began a song, and by the time they started, the arena had filled up quite nicely. 

Compared to the Districts’ youthful appearance, the veteran band looked a bit more reserved and weary, probably evidence of the band’s changes over the years. Front and center was Brock in a light orange jumpsuit very prison chic. 

Modest Mouse had a more extensive band with three guitarists, a drummer, a violinist, a man who broke out a variety of percussion instruments including a tambourine and a shaker. The instrument most emphasized was the blaring guitars which filled up the venue and bounced off the library windows. Throughout their show, they showed their diverse range, progressing from softly rocking to full-on chaos. Brock especially got in on the festivities by playing the guitar with his tongue and pulling out a banjo for “Satin In A Coffin.”

A particularly loud group in the front section was screaming every lyric and yelling out song requests, proving themselves to be the most loyal Modest Mouse fans. (What are their stans called? Mousies? Mouseketeers? Mouse Men and mouse women? Either way, there was a whole bunch of them.) 

After doing an encore fake-out, where a band says they’re done for the night and actually are just taking a bathroom break and waiting for the crowd to start cheering, Modest Mouse finished off the night with “Float On,” a stone-cold classic part of the legendary video game Rock Band 2. They’d been proving all night why they’re a band worth following for years and years, and Modest Mouse solidified it by playing their biggest hit.