Stupid Monitors

Fire, zombie kids and crappy sound conspire against Modest Mouse

Photo by Piper FergusonThe kids, they sure do love them some Modest Mouse. When Modest Mouse comes to town, the kids, well, they go crazy! Out come the trucker hats, terry-cloth wrist warmers and aviator glasses; tickets are purchased; dates called; shy giggles giggled. Then—finally!—the day arrives, and the kids, they spring out of their beds, do the I'm-a-gonna-see-Modest-Mouse-tonight! shuffle, and hit the road, eager to wait in line and maybe/hopefully/please-God-let-it-be-so! make out outside the bar.

And so I awoke last Thursday from my whiskey coma, wiped the sleep from my eyes, and jumped to my feet. Dear me, can it be? Modest Mouse plays tonight! At Detroit Bar! Detroit Bar, where our friends, both local—what up, Fielding?!—and not—hey ya, Moses Leroy—have played time and again! Detroit Bar, home to my most beloved of color schemes and to Steve, the best bartender in all the land.

Yippee!

And so I arrived last Thursday night at Detroit Bar, where I was joined by my pals Russ and Marie, and by the kids, their trucker hats, and their dates' trucker hats as well. And boy, were we a-ready to a-rock!

Only first, a snafu with the pre-sale ticket line: "I'm sorry, but we can't let you in until everyone in your group is here," the little lady at the door informed us upon hearing that our friend Janine was stuck in traffic, showing no sign of sympathy for the hour we'd already waited in line—or for the fact that we'd now have to go to the back of the line and wait an hour more. Fortunately, Russ volunteered to hold our place with the kids while Marie and I sprinted across the street to Avalon for a round of raspberry beers.

"Mike!" I cried to My Friend the Bar Owner in between gulps of criminally sweet ale. "The little lady at Detroit wouldn't let me in!"

"Oh, honey!" he replied, "Doesn't she know who you are? You want me to take you guys over there? I can get you in no problem!"

Fearing a spectacle of epic, Do-You-Know-Who-My-Father-Is? proportions, I politely declined.

And so to Detroit Bar we returned, falling in line with Russ, Janine and the trucker hats, who were now making out with one another—the trucker hats, that is, not Russ and Janine—but that was okay, because we were going to see Modest Mouse! At Detroit Bar!

Inside, we listened as a bearded man sang a tale of star-crossed, blue-collar woe, repeatedly screaming, "The mother-in-law said, 'Bring me the dish washer's head!'" He was sort of funny. The kids and we laughed.

Our pre-sale ticket line woes now but a distant memory, we inched ever closer to the stage. Helio Sequence played next, but unlike the bearded man, it didn't seem like Helio Sequence were much enjoying their minutes in the spotlight. Something about not being able to hear themselves through the monitors—a bad omen, perhaps? In most cases, yes. But surely not tonight! After all, we were seeing Modest Mouse! At Detroit Bar! And nothing—not mean little door ladies or faulty sound equipment!—could change that.

Toward the end of Helio Sequence's too-short set, Marie turned toward me, an awkward smile on her face. "Golly, there's a lot of people in here," she noted with a half-laugh.

Divining her Great White fears, I pointed out our proximity to the fire exit. "That's the great thing about being directly in front of the stage," I reassured her.

Just then, a voice from above (or maybe it was just Chris Fahey on the P.A. system): "There's a fire at the donut shop next door. Stay calm, down your drinks, and exit as quickly as possible."

No! Say it ain't!

Oh, but it was. The threat wasn't immediate—but it was real—and so we gave up our front row spots, evacuated and milled about in Detroit's back yard for five minutes, idly smoking cigarettes, text messaging each other and cheering the man dancing in his underwear inside the apartment building next door.

Half an hour later, at midnight, after extensive—albeit fruitless—toiling with the sound equipment, Modest Mouse took the stage, and the kids, well they went plumb crazy, what with their hooting and hollering and—well, actually, wait. The kids didn't go crazy; in fact, from where we stood at the very back of the bar, the kids didn't do much outside of appear wholly unfamiliar with much of the band's set. Of course, considering that the band itself appeared a little unfamiliar with their own songs—as is expected when a band can't hear themselves playing; stupid monitors!—this wasn't too great a let down. Come to think of it, neither was the band's short set. Or their lack of an encore.

And I mean, who could blame them? This is Modest Mouse we're talking about, and they'd just wrapped a most ill-fated set on what will surely be known anon as the most cursed of all nights. At Detroit Bar!

Oh, but the Stereolab show on Sunday night? Absolutely perfect. Not a single technical difficulty, trucker hat or donut shop fire. Not one.

You can light my fire! Invite me out! egriley@ocweekly.com.

 
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