[FOLK PUNK] "This is the Modernstate band," announced core member Sam Humans. "You don't need to sit down." This introduction to Modernstate's short set (it was less than 30 minutes) last Thursday was a rare call to stand—a call to, presumably, rock out. Instinct would have Modernstate fans tilting toward disbelief, as Humans' project is often a one-man affair (two on his just-concluded tour). It's also a heavily looped tech-folk undertaking that mainly transmits its live power via Humans' raw, guttural, windowpane-rattling diatribes on politics, community and sometimes whiskey.
So, yes, the drum kit manned by Please Step Out of the Vehicle's David Fimbres (who also doubled up on flute) and bass played by Davis Lee Hooker (...worms, Watery Graves) were an odd sight. But the combo was enough to keep about 15 of the 20 or so shivering fans in the Artistery's dim basement on their feet for a set of mostly familiar, hopeful-yet-world-weary songs.
Even in rock-out formation, a red-bandana-clad Humans kept his project with the people, standing just before the low stage haloed by red Christmas lights, face to face with the small cluster of fans up front. The only exception was Fimbres' occasional movement up and back to set loops of fluttering flute with an onstage microphone—a beautiful and unexpected flourish highlighting two of the band's songs.
Whatever incongruities a flute may signal for rock-and-roll, "the Modernstate band," as Humans put it, was freakin' loud. In fact, last Thursday's incarnation of Modernstate was loud enough to, if not neutralize, at least keep up with Humans' booming vocals. At points, the trio dropped into a perfect convergence of rock, folk and pure psych-punk, recalling Humans' other project, ...worms (for which he drums, furiously).
Humans' usual onstage energy wasn't entirely necessary for Modernsate's full-band setup, but his apparent taste for cacophonous blood often came out. Perhaps it was the thrill of loud catharsis after the more tame, folksy arrangements played on Modernstate's Western tour. In any case, Humans (whose real surname is Schauer) swaggered, contorted, posed and just fucking riffed. His refrains of "This is a call to arms!" never sounded more urgent—or more convincing—than they did feeding off and rising above the deftly galloping sound of Modernstate the band. It was indeed a set that belied the words leading the trio's first song: On "As a People," Humans declared, "The race has been run."