Gallery: Modest Mouse’s return to Madison fills the air with an aura of nostalgia

By Matt Weinberger, Staff Writer

Modest Mouse
Photo by Matt Weinberger

After the excitement of the Wisconsin-Northwestern football game ended in Camp Randall Stadium, an evening of excitement began at Breese Stevens Field. Modest Mouse returned to Madison.

When New-York-based band Mass Gothic, hit the stage, the audience at Breese Stevens Field was sparse. Concertgoers sprawled out on blankets while passively enjoying the music. The band had a relaxed vibe that trickled into the audience as they played songs with sharp guitar solos and loud vocal arrangements. As they finished their set, the crowd began to fill up, and the audience could no longer lay on their blankets. This was a fair change in scenery as the tone of the concert was also about to transform.

The second act, Gogol Bordello, rocked the stage so hard they brought the audience to a whole new dimension. The crowd was no longer at Breese Stevens Field. We were at a power-rock, gypsy-punk pirate rave. Gogol Bordello’s energy was parallel to that of a thousand suns.

Mosh pits grew throughout the audience. Everybody smashed into each other as mobs of people jumped around, indiscriminately pushing and shoving bystanders. Bodies hit the floor. The raw power of the band permeated the audience, created an atmosphere which looked nothing like that of the previous hour, during the first set.

The band members of Gogol Bordello darted across the stage, dancing, posing and dramatically interacting as they played their instruments. The combination of accordion, electric violin, electric guitar and bongos made for some incredible music. They were dressed in a mix of styles, which translated into what can only be described as pirate-gypsy-chic. Their music and their actions fit the look. At one point during the set, one of the pirate-esque musicians took out a bottle of wine and poured it all over the front rows of the audience as he danced around with a grin on his face. 

After they finished their set, the sky began to darken. The air cooled down, and so did the energy within the audience.

By the time Modest Mouse took the stage, the crowd stretched all the way to the back of the stadium. The band played an extensive set, including some of their biggest hits like “The World at Large” and “Float On.” The classics captured a strong sense of nostalgia in the crowd, palpable as the audience sang along. Between songs, Isaac Hayes, the band’s front man, could be heard rambling in what seemed like 18th century English. At times, he even spoke with a lisp. He put on a character — performing even when he wasn’t playing a song. He routinely cracked jokes, and even acted as though he were in a completely different city. “Hello Michigan!” he exclaimed. “I love you Los Angeles,” he said. Modest Mouse kept the audience captivated throughout the show.

In response to what seemed to be technical difficulties, the band left the stage for a brief intermission.

When the band returned, they played a variety of songs including a few more of their hits. The audience enjoyed every bit of it. Even though at times it seemed as if Hayes may have been a bit past his prime, often lacking in energy, the crowd did not mind. They seemed happy to experience the musical power house that is Modest Mouse. The night ended with a relaxed acoustic piece with only Hayes on stage.

The song ended. The stage lights shut off. The audience erupted into cheers. Delivering everything it promised, the night treated the audience to a respectable opener, an energetic music powerhouse, and an absolutely classic 90s alt-rock band. I imagine nearly everyone in the crowd went home happy. It was a good night.



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