By: Jill Power | The Duquesne Duke
Modern Baseball, in their signature dorky style, kicked off their latest tour on Tuesday at the Rex Theater on the South Side with a simple, “Hi, guys. How was your day?” to the crowd.
The concert featured Somos, Crying, Foxing, Knuckle Puck and, of course, Modern Baseball. Somos, Crying and Foxing all played roughly 30-minute sets; much longer in comparison to more of a mellow evening, and with probably more soft weeping from the audience.
Knuckle Puck took the stage around 8:45 p.m., and it was hard to believe that they weren’t headlining the tour. While the crowd had previously been bobbing along to the music, the bands opening number brought a much-needed energy to the venue.
This burning, violent movement on stage was standard throughout the set, and was encouraged by vocalist Joe Taylor, who “wanted to see [the audience] move if [they] didn’t know the words.”
Halfway through their set, Taylor requested a new mic cable from the sound booth. This was the second instance of mic failure of the night. Previously, Foxing’s Conor Murphy, who had been using two microphones for vocals and trumpet, switched to one after the other stopped working.
The sound system also seemed to have trouble balancing the guitars and the vocals. The two would often become hard to distinguish between, particularly during Foxing and Knuckle Puck. This seemed to be resolved once Modern Baseball took the stage around 9:45.
They began their set with “Fine, Great,” from of their most recent album You’re Gonna Miss it All. The whining vocals that may grate on the nerves of listeners on the album are only sharper in person. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; Brendan Luken’s voice helps to remind listeners that the lyrics being sung are, after all, about the temporary woes of the 18-24 age crowd. In other words, you don’t have to take them too seriously.
They certainly wouldn’t want you to; bassist Ian Farmer and guitarist Jake Ewald took turns throughout the set poking fun at each other’s dorky personas. The audience’s enthusiasm at the theater was more laid back than one would expect from a band who has recently returned from a tour in the United Kingdom. It’s clear that they’re doing what they love and remain true to their Philadelphia roots.
The energy from the crowd during Knuckle Puck was increased ten-fold during Modern Baseball’s set. The band alternated songs from You’re Gonna Miss it All and Sports, their first studio album.
Crowd favorites were “Tears Over Beers,” “The Old Gospel Choir” and “Re-do,” all of which elicited a frantic push to the front from the crowd. Unlike Knuckle Puck, the dancing had a stronger feeling of camaraderie. It wasn’t unusual to see two fans, who may or not have already known each other, grab each other’s’ shoulders and scream along to “The Weekend.”
Ewald stole the show, however, with “Pothole.” The crowd, which moments before couldn’t contain itself, stood still as Ewald played the sorrowful tune on his own.
With lyrics like “You are the ember of my heart, whether you like that or not,” it’s hard not to stop and listen.
The slow tune didn’t slow down the set, though. They came back strong, resending to their final song, “Your Graduation.” Drummer Sean Huber is featured as a vocalist on the second verse on the studio album, but it was difficult to hear him live. This can be chalked to the poor technology, but it was a bummer not being able to hear Huber’s verse.
Modern Baseball, despite their awkward demeanor, will leave you feeling like you’ve known them your whole lives. Their tour continues through Dec. 15, and concludes in Brooklyn at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.