Brand New and Modest Mouse's final gig of their co-headlining tour Sunday night at Moda Center seemed destined to be a lopsided affair. I'd seen the latter a dozen times and the former never. In order to balance my favoritism I brought my coworker Dalon—one whole decade my junior—whose fandom for the Long Island emo-rockers is rivaled only by his girlfriend's infatuated devotion.
Brand New had been selling T-shirts proclaiming their own demise in 2018 at the merch tables all throughout the tour. In addition, their backdrop featured pixelated footage of the band playing in real time intercut with grainy home-movie footage of '50s ingenues in bathing suits, and the band's microphone stands were adorned with a colorful array of funereal flowers—so the feeling that we were watching the ghost of something recently dead was palpable.
They treated the crowd to what my companion told me were some of their most popular numbers: "Jesus Christ," "Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades," "Sowing Season." Whenever they played a faster, more aggressive song, Dalon headbanged while still seated and screamed all the lyrics, somehow audible to me even in the shrill-heavy cacophony, while a young, ginger-bearded press photographer held a ticket for the seat on my opposite side which he never occupied, because he was too busy thrusting his fists and having a fucking meltdown every single time Brand New created sound.
Jesse Lacey paused mid-set to thank Modest Mouse and praise their fortune for calling such a great city home. It seemed like the same old cursory tribute bands always pay to their tourmates, until his voice cracked for perhaps the thousandth time that night and he seemed genuinely on the verge of real tears. "They shared their hearts with us," he said. "I'm going home with a lot more than I started with."
They launched into their shamelessly romantic hit "Soco Amaretto Lime," and grown adult men on both sides of me began to shake uncontrollably, squealing "OH MY GOD!!!" A chorus of voices screamed the song's coda back at Lacey as he strummed its principle chord progression and stepped away from his bouquet. "They're just jealous cause we're young and in love," cried a thousand people in unison.
They broke the heavy cloud of melancholic sincerity with upbeat new single "I Am The Nightmare," before Lacey nonchalantly proclaimed, "This is the last song we'll ever play," and closed with "You Won't Know." He then held his guitar by the neck, suspended high above his head for a moment before winding it twice, shot-put style, and threw it pretty much right at his drummer. He ripped a few handfuls of decorative flora from the micstands and chucked them into the audience. He might have been crying. Audience members almost certainly were. Jeremy Enigk would have been in freaking heaven.
Modest Mouse was its revised and well-numbered modern incarnation. Isaac Brock mumbled off-hand cynicisms and bent reverbed, tumbleweed-scoring notes. Drummer Jeremiah Green played like a jazz-enthusiast octopus with not one but two auxiliary drummers that no one—especially not someone as deft as he—would ever logically need. The entire stage seemed overpopulated. I never got half as manic as the Brand New fans around me, even as I heard songs that once moved me to squeal years ago. I'd say the active duration of even the most devoted Modest Mouse-enthusiast is somewhere around 12 shows. After that, you just start to feel jealous of those around you, still young and in love.