Modest Mouse at The-Fox Theater, by William Wayland
Modest Mouse (photo: William Wayland)

Modest Mouse is one of the few alternative bands that has thrived on a dedicated fan base extending decades. This was on full blast — literally and figuratively — at a sold-out show at Oakland’s Fox Theater on May 24th.

The over-two-hour concert opened with a heavy rendition of “The World at Large,” one of their softer-sounding, slower songs from Good News for People Who Love Bad News. The venue encompassed overwhelming audio feedback throughout the night, perhaps inadvertently helping you get lost in the confusion and angst led by frontman Isaac Brock. One thing is guaranteed: You won’t get a crisp, studio album sound at a Modest Mouse concert.

The stage was lively, featuring guitars, banjo, keyboard, drums and more — and it was if all the idiosyncratic notes fell through a sieve, so what you heard were bits and pieces of a muddled whole. It was a futile mission to try to decipher what the hell Brock was singing, exactly (although avid fans need not). But you didn’t have to hear the inaudible lyrics, “If the world’s at large, why should I remain? / Walked away to another plan / Gonna find another place, maybe one I can stand” to feel the band’s ennui. The hoodies, drawn-out instrumentation, and anguished faces filled the void.

The Thursday night show brought in a diverse crowd, age-wise — from an early-20s bro who projectile vomited alcohol near center stage (causing several guests to slip over a 30-minute period) to a sweet couple next to me in their late 60s who were a steady presence in an otherwise rambunctious sea of people.

The band didn’t play “Float On,” the song that brought them to mainstream attention in 2004 (I remember even Disney Channel stars like Hilary Duff gushing about their favorite rock band Modest Mouse in magazine interviews). Instead, they drew upon a mix of more well-known hits like “Dashboard” and fan favorites like “King Rat” and “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes.” They barely missed a beat between the 14 songs. But the crowd of course wanted more, stomping in unison for an encore. They covered seven more, starting with “3rd Planet” and ending with “The Good Times Are Killing Me.”

For the 2,800 fans who relentlessly whooped and jumped throughout the night, it was indeed a good time.