Modest Mouse Ancienne Belgique, Brussels, June 24
Though Brussels is not known as a nightlife or cultural hotspot, its fortuitous position as the hub of old Europe means it gets heaps of great touring acts on their way to greener pastures. And in fact, even if they can’t make their original June 14th date, as was the case with Modest Mouse, they can still come back to rock the house a couple weeks later, without throwing the whole tour out of joint. Either the two week delay had taken its toll on Belgian Modest Mouse fans or they’re incredibly impatient because Modest Mouse was scheduled to start at 9pm and at 9:00 by my watch a small but concentrated rhythmic clap went up to try and coax them onto the stage. They appeared at 9:15. Fashionably late and ready to rock.
Modest Mouse is awesome. And for their most recent album ‘We were dead before the ship sank’ that awesomeness trebled with the addition of guitar-master Johnny Marr. It sounded like a good move to me, and so did he. And that was expected. But I was not prepared for the fact they had two drummers. And not just two drummers: two TWIN drummers! Yes. Identical twins, in matching red and black striped tank tops.
The Henrik and Daniel of the drumkit had their twin powers on display all night, but even their total rhythmic awesomeness was outshone by frontman Isaac Brock. I was a little nervous after Brocks’ first foray into audience banter fell flat. I can’t remember what he said, but I remember feeling a little embarrassed for him, and wondering how it’s possible to fuck up audience banter—don’t you just need to say (greeting) (name of city) (inquiry of wellbeing). (General insight about touring life, the band, or a city landmark). This is (name of song)? Then you’re off and running. It’s a pretty simple (and road-tested) formula. But then the mind that thinks the lyrics that become Modest Mouse songs may not work that simply. And in fact Brock struck me as one that might find it difficult to do the simple things, but can do the poetic and bizarre so well. He is, if not completely crazy, than definitely unbalanced. And if neither of those, than just an excellent rock star.
And the evening was the better for the showmanship. From the banjo accordion goodness of Satin in a Coffin all the way through the tight hour and twenty minute set. Bonus points for the roadie trying desperately to keep up with Brooks antics which included singing into his guitar pick-ups, plowing into the front row of the audience to sing into his guitar pickups, and making a complete mess of the mic stands. The way the roadie jabbed his middle finger at Brooks as the singer made a puzzle of the mic stands spoke of long-standing frustration.
Powered by the wonderdrumtwins MM tore through an excellent selection of old and new tunes. My first encounter with a Belgium crowd showed them to be polite and focused for the duration, and content at the finish. My mate and I weren’t content until we’d enjoyed a couple post-show beers and some delicious frites. Then it all sunk in… but I still can’t believe it: twin drummers? Awesome!