You have to hand it to Philly pop-punk buzzmakers Modern Baseball – with all the momentum at the band’s collective feet right now, they’re very much about staying true to their roots. Following up a U.S. stint opening for The Wonder Years earlier this spring, the band returned to Philly to play its first headlining shows in support of the awesome new You’re Gonna Miss It All at the pocket-sized Fishtown venue The Barbary. Note that I used the plural there – when an evening show sold out like instantaneously, the band added an afternoon matinee, which also sold out. Hundreds of revved-up and enthusiastic fans packed the joint, crowd surfed, slam danced, screamed along to every one of the band’s myriad screamalong refrains, and generally showed how much this band is busting at the seams.
MoBo has very evidently outgrown spaces like this; these two small shows could have been one big sold-out show at the First Unitarian Church basement. If the ticket price and the lineup were right, I’d even wager that the band could hold their own at The TLA or Union Transfer. But the guys realize that part of the joy in performing – and part of the joy in watching them perform – is the intimate experience of being up close and tight with your crowd, with whom they converse with tones of jovial warmth and friendship, with whom they give hi-fives and lean into heavily, sharing the microphone with outstretched arms in the front row (drummer Sean Huber does a bangup job of that during his cathartic verse in “Your Graduation,” as you can see above, though the room was so densely populated at this point that I couldn’t see who took over for him on drums). It’s an amazing vibe, and of course they want to continue creating that experience for as long as possible.
Singer-guitarist Brendan Lukens powered through the two sets despite a bout of walking pneumonia – which, I don’t even know what that means to have a walking sickness, but it sounds pretty awful. The afternoon set was fun but a bit restrained; the band had loosened up by the night, really letting fly with selections like the very fun “The Weekend,” an absolutely stellar performance of the Death Cab-esque “Two Good Things” (bassist Ian Farmer’s playing totally makes this song) and the fan favorite “It’s Cold Out Here” which was punctuated by the voices of a couple hundred fans joining in on the coda. Crowd surfers flailed, die-hards lunged at the microphones, and singer-guitarist Jacob Ewald at one point said “Let’s give it up for security for keeping you all safe,” acknowledging that, yes, it looked like mass chaos out there, but this was a band that cares and doesn’t want to see anybody hurt in the process of having an ecstatic time.
Opening both shows were Minnesota screamo three-piece Tiny Moving Parts, Massachusetts hardcore faves The Hotelier and Sorority Noise from Connecticut. Check out photos in the gallery below.
Modern Baseball | photo by Rachel Del Sordo