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The Good Times Are Killing Me

Occasionally, my job as music editor of this paper wears me down and out, what with all the late nights and expensive drinks and all. But it also enables me to do things like going to see MODEST MOUSE two nights in a row, just for the sake of comparison. And the difference was clear: the first night, they played for less than an hour, then ISAAC BROCK got cranky about a monitor on the fritz, and they left the building without so much as a single encore (Brock is a notorious boy-genius asshole, and rumor has it that he was on his second bottle of vodka for the evening); whereas the following evening's performance was gentler in mood, considerably longer and drawn from a wider span of albums. For the encore, they played a drawn-out version of "The Good Times Are Killing Me," the last song on their newest album, Good News for People Who Love Bad News. With twin drumkits and six or so roadies/friends/passersby playing various percussion instruments, the back of the stage looked like some kind of indie rock drum circle.

Still, it's hard to say they redeemed themselves after the first night's performance, considering the fact that most of the audience who got ripped off on the first night didn't catch the second night's redemption.

Interesting postscript: various Metro Santa Cruz staff were approached by local musicians/Modest Mouse fans, who took issue with Jim Harrington's accusation ("Modesty Blaise," Jan. 26) that Modest Mouse is "whoring for Nissan." After all, what's wrong with making money on music you worked hard to make? Without taking any moral stand, I think of it this way: every time I hear LED ZEPPELIN's "Rock and Roll," I see an expensive new Cadillac zooming through the desert. Now, Modest Mouse's "Gravity Rides Everything" is a song about the ineffable (yet totally hip) Nissan lifestyle. What's next, a commercial for STORABLES accompanied by RADIOHEAD's "Everything in Its Right Place"? I bit that last example from a friend, but I defy anyone to come up with a better one.

Mike Connor

Back to School

As a recovering academic, spending my Saturday night in the Recital Hall up at UCSC listening to avant-garde compositions was a relapse of sorts. Lately I have eschewed the 12-tone row in favor of more gentle sonorities. Say, for example: FLOGGING MOLLY.

Thankfully I choose a good night to go visit the city on a hill, because VAL HALL, former trumpeter for WEST COAST SOUL MACHINE, CARNE CRUDA and SOUL MAJESTIC, finally put on his graduate recital. Much hilarity ensued.

Credit must be given to Val for choosing his players well. The first piece of the evening was a piece written around JOHN THOMAS and his tuba. It's a damn shame that the tuba doesn't get its due more often. You can really do a lot with that much brass.

PAUL CONTOS also put in an appearance, leading a sax quartet that also featured UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE's JOEL FORD. This was perhaps the most melodic piece of the evening, with shimmering unison passages and some tightly locked rhythms. Sweet.

My favorite moment of the evening came in the final piece of the program. There is no more hilarious sight in the world that watching a pinstriped conductor try to conduct a death metal drummer. Somehow that carefully polished emphatic swish of the wrist just doesn't translate well to activate the double bass pedal.

This communication breakdown was the result of Val assembling an ensemble based around a metal band (featuring members of ESTRADASPHERE and BOBBY HANSON), with the addition of a horn section and a complete choir. Textually based on letters from prisoners, this piece reminded the audience that horrible things are being perpetrated in our names throughout the world. It was an uncomfortable statement to make in an academic setting, but much more compelling than yet another BEETHOVEN knockoff.

Peter Koht

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From the February 9-16, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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