Modest Mouse goes off script, rocks the house in Reno

Tahoe Onstage

Isaac Brock and Modest Mouse play in Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort on Sept. 19.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Michael Smyth

A near capacity Grand Sierra Resort crowd of mostly hardcore Modest Mouse fans were treated Tuesday to nearly all of the band’s quirky, effect-laden indie-rock hits and favs they called out for and had arrived hopeful to see and hear. Groups, couples and individuals danced from stage front all the way to the back row and just plain had a great time seeing their heroes past.

Former Hooray For Earth frontman Noel Heroux’s latest project, Mass Gothic, opened the show by blending electronica, indie-rock and punk in a variety of textures with a solid set. Opening bands often seem to play a handful of songs that tend to sound like one another but Gothic dropped a breadth of offerings.

While Mass Gothic certainly had its collection of instrument effects, Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock is in a league of his own. They weren’t just there for show, either, as the band played under and around his tonal leads and expressive vocals all evening. It’s clear that Brock is a special talent, loaded with the gift of imagination and creativity. He also leaves no doubt he’s in control of the ship and you better jump on board or get left behind.  Fortunately, an exceptional group of musicians lend their talents on a pair of drum kits, electric and stand-up bass, guitar, keys, violin, horns and a mad-scientist percussionist banging and clattering from a rear corner.

After a 90-minute or so main set, the band quickly returned for a five-song encore before retreating to the darkness for about 10 minutes and adding another pair of songs to close the evening. It felt a little impromptu and as I held the set list in my hand afterward, a few fans confirmed that none of the encore songs were on the piece of paper. Save for “Devil’s Workday,” “Parting of the Sensory” and “Float On” even they weren’t quite sure all that had been played. Perhaps it was a Reno treat of some new material destined for the rumored followup to 2015’s “Strangers To Ourselves.”

Tuesday was my second night in a row at the Grand Sierra Resort. I also photographed the much more ethereal Fleet Foxes on Monday. When I’m at a show alone I like to cruise around and scope out prime viewing and listening areas to turn my friends on to. I was pleasantly surprised to find most locations, including the very top row, acoustically and visually on point. The bass cabinets, often found on the floor in front of the stage at most venues, are placed a little higher and on the far edges. If you love your thumping bass lines, stay to the sides. If a truer mix is more your jam, anywhere in the middle two-thirds is a sweetspot. The stage is full production size so all your favorite acts can hang their complete light rig, too. I look forward to some more shows there soon and if you haven’t been since the remodel from old crony Vegas-style showroom two years ago, check it out. It’s a first-class room.

-Michael Smyth

  • Modest Mouse
    Sept. 19, 2017
    Shit In Your Cut
    Tiny Cities
    Cowboy Dan|
    Fire It Up
    Lampshades On Fire|
    Interstate 8
    King Rat
    Pups To Dust
    Night On The Sun
    Gravity Rides
    Bury Me With It
    Encore: (partial list, 7- songs total)
    Devil’s Workday
    Parting Of The Sensory
    Float On

    Tahoe Onstage

    Modest Mouse in the Grand Sierra Resort on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
    Tahoe Onstage photos by Michael Smyth

    Tahoe Onstage

    Jim Fairchild of Modest Mouse.

    Tahoe Onstage

    Mass Gothic has a large stage presence in the Grand Theatre.
    Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

About Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website

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