Let's time travel, to the past and future, with Modest Mouse at ACL Fest
Do y’all remember indie rock?
At the Honda stage on Saturday, Isaac Brock and the genre legends from Modest Mouse took it back to ACL 2004, when the one-hit wonders arrived at Zilker Park riding the high of unlikely pop hit “Float On.” Turns out it remains a resonant, pantheon rock single, one that survived an era of trendy, ultimately forgettable rock music.
In the mid-2000s, ACL Fest planned around boomer icons like Van Morrison; roots rock like the Black Crowes; and peppered in tasteful college rock acts like Bloc Party, Tortoise and the Shins. In those days, if you openly lamented that those bands were “slow” or that they “sucked,” your lack of reverence for the rock canon and its manic pixie scenester offshoots meant a side-eye from people who went to good schools. Looking back, this notion of taste was shockingly classist, gendered and racially coded. Today, ACL Fest is better not just because the acts are more diverse in makeup but also because they sound more dynamic.
Yet here was Brock, 46, effectively opening for 23-year-old Jack Harlow as the TikTok rapper’s stans gathered at the nearby Miller Lite stage. Good thing he's got the forward-looking sonics to keep up.
Modest Mouse is touring behind “The Golden Casket,” its new seventh record. At Zilker Park, the six-piece band played with instrumentation: Brock strummed the banjo for at least two songs, brass accents from the cornet and euphonium reverberated, and I’m almost positive someone shook a soda can onstage. (The liner notes of “Golden Casket” note that it includes “soft drink percussion.”)
But Brock is a sardonic and witty bro from the Pacific Northwest. Lines like “We laughed about paying rent because the county jails they're free” pop with disdain for restrictive human conventions. It all makes him a sage worth starting a vibrant fan subreddit over, one where you pose nerdy questions like “Which album do y'all associate with Autumn/Fall?”
As Modest Mouse’s pop-engineered, driving new single “We Are Between” suggests, we are made of old rocks and salt. In other words, we’re here for a good time, not a long time — and the band found enough pace to uplift the many distraught Longhorns fans moping at Zilker. Or at least boost their engagement: Patrons gawked curiously for most of the set at interesting, mid-tempo new songs like “Wooden Soldiers” that showcased Brock’s spiraling lyricism.
Singing into a gold microphone, donning white headphones, and wearing a red Hawaiian shirt under denim overalls, he reportedly shuffled the setlist from last week and closed with “Float On” this time. It was the obvious, sublime closer we needed.