Modest Mouse Shines with Relaxed Rock at Red Butte


Modest Mouse at Red Butte Garden Amphitheater (Photo by Kate Button I The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Kate Button, Arts Writer, Copy Editor

On Sept. 20, Modest Mouse delivered a setlist ranging from ‘90s grunge to modern alternative rock at the Red Butte Garden Amphitheater. This venue, which can accomodate around 3,000 visitors, was sold out as locals rushed in to see Modest Mouse — an indie, alternative, rock and lo-fi band from Washington — perform. 

Even on a frigid night, Modest Mouse got the crowd dancing and rocking out to their range of groovy and rhythmic songs to their experimental, intense and more alternative rock music. Modest Mouse is best known for their hit song “Float On” that chronicles some truly tragic events —“We both got fired on exactly the same day” —  but ultimately inspires hope — “We’ll float on, good news is on the way.” While I was disappointed that “Float On” did not make it onto the setlist, their focus on showcasing the development of their music from their debut album in 1996 to their recent singles from this summer demonstrates how Modest Mouse has evolved from an introspective and intense band to a more relaxed version of rock that tends to have a more political focus.  

NOMADR at Red Butte Garden Amphitheater (Photo by Kate Button I The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The concert was held on the day of the U.S. Climate Strike, and I couldn’t stop myself from seeing themes of environmentalism in Modest Mouse’s music. In one particular song, “Lampshades on Fire” off of their latest album, “Strangers to Ourselves,” the band discusses finding a new planet to abuse. “Spend some time to float in outer space / Find another planet, make the same mistakes / Our mind’s all shattered when we climb aboard / Hopin’ for the scientists to find another door.” As protesters for the climate often chant, “There is no Planet B.”


The night at the Red Butte Garden Ampitheatre opened up with music from NOMADR, an electronic and lo-fi group that combines enchanting, smooth bass rhythms with synth and samples to create a relaxed tone focused on themes of kindness and revolution. Modest Mouse took to the stage once the sun had set, and they delivered a strong performance of their iconic raspy and almost nonsensical lyrics alongside intoxicating guitar rhythms. While Modest Mouse has achieved mainstream success, the majority of their discography contains hidden gems, and their concert did an excellent job of featuring both well-loved songs and ones that may have been relatively forgotten by history.

Modest Mouse at Red Butte Garden Amphitheater (Photo by Kate Button I The Daily Utah Chronicle)

While the venue at Red Butte lends itself more easily to a more relaxed and laid-back energy, Modest Mouse was still able to get the crowd rallied behind a few of their more intense and well-known songs, like “Dashboard,” “Satellite Skin” and “Dramamine.”


During their performance, there were a few technical difficulties — including speakers that went out for a few moments, screeching microphones and guitar malperformance — but the band performed right through these moments without a second thought. One of my favorite moments from the show actually occurred as stage crew was attempting to fix an item on the microphone stand. Lead singer Isaac Brock told a story about some of his run-ins with stalkers over the years. Notably, in this one story, Brock was labeled a possible paranoid-schizophrenic, had to deal with crazy stalkers and believed he was under the surveillance of the NSA.  

Modest Mouse at Red Butte Garden Amphitheater (Photo by Kate Button I The Daily Utah Chronicle)

From Modest Mouse, I was expecting a higher energy level and more intense experience, but their relaxed approach was welcome and I still enjoyed the environment that they created. From their entire performance, I thought they were most successful in their rendition of “Satellite Skin.” As this song was brought to the live stage, it retained its impactful energy while inspiring audience engagement, and it set the scene for an excellent rest of the night.


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