SAN FRANCISCO -- With a name like Modest Mouse, you'd think this was a
band of shoe-gazers.
This band of noisy pop punkers may have been, at one time, a bit shy. But those days are
over, as Modest Mouse proved Wednesday night at San Francisco's intimate Bottom of the Hill club. In fact, if ever
he was shy, lead singer and guitarist Isaac Brock has had a complete change of attitude.
Tossing out one-liners and conversing with the crowd, Brock was a regular comedian on
stage, proudly explaining that the band's new outlook is what he calls "attitude
alcoholism." "I've only been sober one day in the past two months," he said, "and that
The group, which has been on tour for the past two months in support of their new album, The Lonesome Crowded West (Up Records), last played San Francisco in September. That show was a quick sell-out, prompting the booking of the two shows that took place here this past week.
The crowd was given an early glimpse of what to expect when Brock joined opening act
and label-mate 764-Hero on stage for their last song, and continued to play a long, drawn-
out, feedback-ridden solo for several minutes after the members of 764-Hero left the stage. The
audience plugged their ears for the majority of it, but then applauded and cheered
afterward, inching forward even to get a better position for what was to come next.
Modest Mouse didn't waste any time showing how their new
outlook has changed them. If nothing else, it made Brock funnier than ever. He grabbed
his microphone, leapt into the crowd and began rapping, while bassist Eric Judy and
drummer Jeremiah Green established a simple groove. Brock reappeared on stage and continued
his completely incomprehensible (due to his lisp, and perhaps a bit of drunken slurring)
stream-of-consciousness rap for another minute before the groove finally broke down.
Brock then slid his guitar on, and began pointing at the crowd with his cigarette. "You,
you, you, you, and you," he directed, "all look at the person next to you. Are you curious
about them? You should be!" He then peeled off his pullover, and the band broke into
"Truckers Atlas" off the new album.
Brock made the first of many shouts to the bar, asking that someone bring him another
beer. He promised to pay for it later. He then announced "OK, we're gonna play a couple
of songs off our hit punk-rock fuckin' album!" and then led the band into a 10-second
thrashing of their instruments. The crowd responded by calling out for Slayer
covers, which Brock laughed off, before bursting into "Shit Luck," a hard, fast and
piercing tune off the new album.
After coming in for a sonic landing, Brock began spinning tales about how "back in '82,
we had these 20 leather jackets. With studs. Leather jackets with studs... they're good to
The audience laughed along. You see, the eldest member of this band just
turned 23. So in '82? Let's see... that would put them where? In kindergarten? After
laughing at his own joke for a moment, Brock launched into "Dramamine,"
from 1996's This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About.
"It's hard, you know, to go from a butt-rock guitar to a respectable guitar," Brock
explained to the audience, as he picked a different instrument than the one he had been playing. "You have to
figure out what all the switches do."
Then, in a moment of inspiration, he pointed at a
member of the audience and yelled "Oh yeah! It's this guy's birthday over here!" and
began leading the audience in a half-hearted rendition of "Happy Birthday."
The guy in question complained that it wasn't actually his birthday, as Brock shouted to
him, "Shut up! You'll receive a birthday song whether it's your birthday or not!"
then turned to the audience and said coyly, "We're just warming him up for when his
birthday really happens."
Grabbing a tambourine and a shaker, Brock threw them out into the crowd before
launching into "Tundra/Desert," which sent the crowd into a frenzy of claps and hoots at
the opening notes. But Brock wasn't through with his music or his comic relief yet. Mid-
song, in fact, he complained, "I thought these fancy feedback guitars were supposed to
play the songs for you 'n' shit."
After leaving the stage briefly, the band returned for a two song encore,
"Might" and "Breakthrough," with Brock repeating the closing lines of the latter song
slowly before leaving the stage for the night, "And if you have enough to say, I think
you've had enough to drink."
Not bad advice for a drunk guy. [Sat., Nov. 22, 1997, 9 a.m.