ACL Fest 2015: Modest Mouse are a little too modest

Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse performs during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park Saturday, October 10, 2015. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse performs during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park Saturday, October 10, 2015. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Modest Mouse commanded a huge chill out section of people on blankets. It was stretching nearly to the beer hall.

But on the strength of a middling new record, Modest Mouse fans seem nostalgic. They want to hear the band’s (one?) radio jam, “Float On,” and some of them, with longer memories, want to hear the really old stuff.

Onstage, Modest Mouse mostly seem to be doing their normal thing. The band is always interesting, there’s banjo, cornet, violin, but it’s hard not to sense, for those who’ve followed them for years, that modest mouse don’t carry the same weight they once did, at least not this time out.

Lead singer Isaac Brock is still a source of tireless energy, and they always look to be having fun on stage. But there’s an essential tension in their music that often renders it in a darker energy. No easy anthems here.

“How are y’all doing?” Brock said at on point. He paused. “Where the f***’d you get a giant Gumby inflatable?” You could see its green head bobbing around. Man, half the stage banter at ACL is about the weird flags and icons out there floating around.

It was really nice to hear “Dramamine,” a shout out to old fans who wore that CD out *ahem* driving to it, alone in their cars. But the goods for most fans came when they played “Float On.” And it sounded fine. A solid festival tune, for sure. But Brock had a habit of singing off-mic, or drifting his head down to look at his guitar, before finishing the line. Maybe His vocals were a bit low in the mix too.
Life’s hard, and you shouldn’t pander and sacrifice your art, but just to be all #firstworldproblems about it, life ain’t completely easy out here on the lawn. There are lines, throngs of people, heat and dry grass. This dark stuff only goes so far. In other words, we’d take some cushy stuff, whatever you have to do to make that happen.

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