Slightly different circumstances than intended for this one; I’d booked tix for this, a quick return to these shores for Philly Emo/ punk pop funsters Modern Baseball, looking forward to some more rousing modern punk delivered in a laconic, conversational and slightly geeky fashion by Mobo’s co-songwriters and co-vocalists Jake and Brendan. However a few weeks before the gig, the band announced that Brendan, unfortunately, was staying behind to deal with some mental health issues. Absolutely the right thing to do, no arguments there, but still this undeniably left a void which required filling; how the band would fill it, though, would be an, erm, interesting solution…!
Comic shop buddy Troy was up for this, so I’d booked him a ticket; then Troy mentioned it to his colleague Keefer who sorted himself out with one! Thus a happy trio hit the road for a swift drive down, parking in the cheaper NCP a couple of streets away, then joining a long, young and predominantly black-clad queue for entry at 7.30. Back in to my rickety old 80’s Bristol “local” again; it still looks as if it’s not seen a lick of paint since the halcyon days of those Birdland and Ride gigs! Kept a watching brief at the bar for the supports, meeting up with Troy’s mate Shaun, and his “almost” sister in law and her mate; openers Thin Lips, fellow Philly natives (as were all 3 bands tonight!) featured a hefty female vocalist and initially leant towards the darker, gothier side of Emo/ punk, thereby recalling Swindon’s own All Ears Avow! They latterly reverted to a more user-friendly but generic college pop-punk, pleasant enough but unmemorable. Main support Superweaks were however a more palatable proposition, a 6-piece ploughing a more chunky 90’s powerpop furrow, so much so that their second number kicked in with a distinctly Weezer “Buddy Holly” drumbeat! Some unexpectedly nice 60’s style harmonies from the bearded lumberjack lookalikes either end of the 5-strong frontline too. They also called for a lighters-aloft display from the crowd before a slower, grungier number which frankly was better than the song itself, before reverting to their more powerpoppy oeuvre. Not original, but they went down well and left a favourable impression on my ears.
Popped down the front, stage right, as the Mobo boys set up onstage, the Brendan-less trio of Jake, bassist Ian and drummer Sean being augmented by guitar tech Nick. Thumbs up to the mixing desk, then Jake announced, “Bristol! Here we go, we’re doing it,” and the band eased into whip-fast, ringing opener “Wedding Singer”. Initially, the band seemed a little subdued, muted even, as they eased into the gig, although the same couldn’t be said for the frenzied young sold-out crowd, moshing and singing along to every number from note one, prompting Jake to regularly step off the mic for the crowd to fill in. However, by the manic rush of “Apartment” and the excellent, Irish-tinged and almost Dropkick Murphys-like frantic reel of “Tears Over Beers” the boys were in their stride, and the subsequent mouthful of “Alpha Kappa Fall Of Troy The Movie Part Deux” was a solid, titanic riffathon. Great stuff!
Jake then introduced a 3-song mid-set solo interlude with an explanation of Brendan’s absence, initiating a, “Brendan! Brendan!” chant from the crowd and prompting Jake to respond with, “we’ll tell him you said hi – that’s what that means, right?” The subsequent acoustic trio was pretty much accompanied word for word by the devoted crowd, almost Dashboard Confessional-like, causing a proud smile to spread across the laconic Jake’s features. We then had a clutch of Brendan’s numbers, and here’s where it all got a little interesting; firstly, a nervous looking kid was brought onstage to front an excellent “Weekend”, doing a fine job in the process; then a couple of Thin Lips members took vocal chores for a couple more of Brendan’s numbers, a superb, widescreen and anthemic “Just Another Face” sung by TL vocalist Chrissy being the highlight; then, a chaotic cover of The Killers’ “When You Were Young” (introduced by Ian as, “the only other song we all know!”) was preceded and punctuated by the tall, young Joey Ramone lookalike bassist giving shout outs to all and sundry, the whole thing collapsing into joyous disarray to end a totally fun gig.
Caught our collective breaths before we, chivalrously, saw the girls off to their lift home, then we hit the road ourselves, ruminating on a slightly unorthodox but nonetheless entertaining evening out. Get well soon Brendan, but don’t worry, your Modern Baseball colleagues are doing you proud in your absence!