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Modest Mouse forges through at SteelStacks in Bethlehem

Modest Mouse | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman
Modest Mouse | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman

It can’t be easy to be Isaac Brock. Seriously. Between band practice, the taxidermy and getting cut off during headlining one of the world’s largest festivals, the guy probably deals with his fair share of stress. Getting his own way during one of Modest Mouse’s rare smaller gigs, then, should only be fair. “Alright, I’m not playing that shit,” Brock muttered after not one, but two failed attempts to start bendy jam “Interstate 8″ early in the evening’s set. Despite early slips, a mediocre-at-best mix, and other quirks, the seminal indie rockers still brought their level best to Wednesday night’s sold-out crowd in Bethlehem.

Modest Mouse | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman
Modest Mouse | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman

Festival circuit aside, Modest Mouse doesn’t get out very often. Whether that’s due to working on what is arguably the most anticipated indie album ever, or something else entirely, is debatable. But the SteelStacks show comes smack in the middle of their first true tour in several years. Hitting out of the way cities like Bethlehem, PA and Cooperstown, NY later this weekend, they’re picking and choosing their way through smaller venues than usual, making these shows a treat for concert-starved fans. Even though Brock wasn’t very talkative, and didn’t really seem to know or care what secondary city the band was playing in, the assembly of ecstatic fans didn’t seem to mind.

Modest Mouse being no strangers to the weird, it was almost fitting that just about everything about the gig was slightly off. From the aforementioned mix – ranging from quite muddy to utterly drowning Brock’s voice behind a wall of wailing guitars – to a beautiful and unique venue filled with fans who seemingly only wanted to hear “Float On”, the evening was still a great time, but in a strangely off-kilter way. The lack of their most noted song almost created a crisis at the very end of the encore, as the crowd refused to believe that the band simply wouldn’t play it. They didn’t, recently haven’t been, and frankly don’t need to. While catchy and fun, “Float On” is far, far from being one of their better songs.

Speaking of the setlist, it was jam-packed with the more obscure classics. The die-hard fans (don’t mistake my earlier sentiment, there were many loyalists in the crowd) were thrilled to hear the band drag out deep cuts like “The View”, and could be heard remarking how relieved they were that the band kept mostly to their older material. The three new songs premiered at Coachella 2013 – “Be Brave”, “Shit In Your Cut”, and “Sugar Boats” – all made appearances in the 20-song setlist. Wrapping up with the hugely pessimistic “Fly Trapped In A Jar”, Brock thanked the audience and jogged off the stage.

In the first ever ticketed show at Levitt Pavilion, the post-industrial-blight-turned-venue proved to be a success, and was the event was also the first in the new Yuengling Summer Concert series — slated to host indie darling duo Tegan & Sara next month. Settled beneath the towering blast furnaces of the Bethlehem Steel, the stage and its crowd proved to be the perfectly weird combination to welcome Modest Mouse to Bethlehem.

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This Weekend: Philly shoegaze / psychedelic band Jackie Paper playing Silk City on 10/20

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Photo by Ian Thomas Watson | twitter.com/ITWatsonPhoto

 

The multifaceted psychedelic pop-rock band Jackie Paper have undoubtedly woven themselves into the fabric of the Philly DIY music scene. With a home base at Hong Kong Garden, the band has worked its way through the city’s venues, from Kung Fu Necktie to El Bar to World Cafe Live. Sunday they’ll be performing at Silk City joined by Zebras and Bulls Fight Tonight!Week of Wonders and Drone Ranger.

Created by Joshua Dowell (guitar, vocals), the band also includes Patrick Firth  (percussion), Michelle Goodwin (flute and vocals), Asher Dark (bass) and Daniel Jose (synth). The band manages to combine raw Philly psych with elements of shoegaze and ’60s sounds. Tracks on their 2012 demo, available on Bandcamp, trail between droning fuzz bass and upbeat percussion, mixing distortion and keys complimented by woodwind arrangements, making for a truly unique sound. Listen to “Good Luck” from the EP below; get details on Sunday’s show at Silk City at its Facebook event page.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Women’s Way benefit at World Cafe Live, Swirlies at Johnny Brenda’s, Wild Rompit at North Star Bar, Chris Smither at Upper Merion Concerts Under The Stars

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Tonight, you can catch several Philly singer-songwriters (and a couple out-of-towners) perfrom for the Women’s Way Benefit Concert at World Cafe Live.  Women’s Way, through grants and education, have been empowering women and girls around the region.  With the help of Teri Rambo, Barnaby Bright (from Brooklyn), Adrien Reju and Christine Havrilla & Gypsy Fuzz, you can spend the night listening to wonderful musicians while funding a good cause.  Click here for more information and check out a few of the artists below.

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Watch Dreambook go outside with “Stay Inside” on this month’s BITBY episode (playing Johnny Brenda’s on 7/12)

dreambookThis month’s Bands in the Backyard episode introduces us to emerging Philly band Dreambook, which performs a brand new song called “Stay Inside.”  It’s a hazy piece of shoegaze music, sometimes touching on psychedelic, with multiple guitars vamping along to a steady drum beat and heavy bass line.  Check out the video below, and be sure to catch them at Johnny Brenda’s July 12th along with Creepoid and Amanda X.

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Pity Sex touring with Philly’s Daylight, playing The Fire on July 18th

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The strangely-named indie outfit Pity Sex released their debut album Feast of Love this Tuesday, June 25th.  But if you want to try before you buy, Run For Cover Records has the album up and streaming via its Soundcloud.  On their album, Pity Sex does a punked up take on the 90s shoegaze sound with vamped guitars and hazy vocals. This summer, the band heads on tour in support of their new album, including a few stops on the east coast with Philly’s own Daylight.  Although they’re not shoegaze, Daylight have a heavy 90s influence as well, sounding like a blend of early emo-rock and grunge.  Below, you can stream the Pity Sex album in full as well as check out a song by Daylight.  The tour hits Philly venue The Fire July 18th.

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Firefly Under the Radar: Trails and Ways

TWTrails and Ways still don’t have a debut album yet, but they’re already causing a stir on the music scene with their eclectic blend of bossa nova beats and 90s shoegaze.  The songs are often written in several different languages and topics are often political.  What this all adds up to is a grooving group of musicians who make incredibly catchy and meaningful music.  Trails and Ways play the festival Sunday afternoon on The Porch.  Check out their single, “Border Crosser” below.