Pixies and Modest Mouse Knock it Out of the Park in Cooperstown

It was rain-soaked double header in Cooperstown on Friday, August 25th, as a near-capacity crowd braved the elements at Brewery Ommegang for a pair of headlining sets from legendary alternative rockers Pixies and Modest Mouse.  Along with support from critically acclaimed opening act Cat Power, the powerhouse bill proved to be a home run with fans of all ages, despite some minor curveballs thrown by Mother Nature. 

Upon arrival, the ominous sky over Brewery Ommegang felt only fitting. That’s because every time DSP Shows bring Modest Mouse to town, dating back to their first visit in 2014 and again in 2021, the weather seems to head south just prior to showtime. The same was true this year when opening act Cat Power had to abruptly cut their set short when it started raining cats and dogs in an absolutely torrential downpour that sent fans running for cover under the tree line.

Dark Center of the Universe: An ominous sky over Brewery Ommegang felt only fitting on 8/25/23.

Doing little else to detour the remainder of the show, however, the audience was quick to embrace the soggy scene and use the minor rain delay to fill up their beer cups and grab some merch of which there was plenty.  A simple glance around the grounds showed that while many fans were already sporting their brand new (and dry) Pixies and Modest Mouse threads, plenty of bands they’ve helped influence were represented as well. Twenty-somethings wearing shirts for bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Built to Spill, along with newer acts like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and The Strokes, but it was the surprising amount of Deadheads and Ramones fans in the audience that proved just how diverse the appeal of this show was.  

Fire It Up: Modest Mouse was “beautifully bold” in their return to Cooperstown on 8/25/23.

Taking the soaking wet stage shortly after 8pm and greeting the audience with his best impersonation of an old-time radio sports announcer, Modest Mouse front-man Isaac Brock immediately connected with the crowd with some playful baseball banter, before ‘leading off’ with “Dark Center of the Universe,” one of the groups oldest and most iconic songs. Comfortably dressed in a sweatshirt depicting magic mushrooms, on deck was the infectious groove of “Tiny City Made of Ashes,” which the band seemed to jam on for a minute before Brock gave his OK to “Fire It Up.” Then came a pair of songs that helped introduce Modest Mouse to the masses back in 1996 with the first two tracks from their debut album This Is a Long Drive For Someone With Nothing to Think About.

A beautiful and always appreciated “Dramamine” would seamlessly segue into “Life Like Weeds,” before the angst-ridden rock of “Breakthrough” would fall just shy of turning the muddy grounds into an all-out mosh pit. Cooling off the aggression with some of Brock’s signature thought provoking lyrics, “Baby Blue Sedan” had sentimental fans singing along to the lyrics of “I am doing the best that I can” in a touching moment of solidarity.

“Sad song, last dance and no one knows who the band was, except this one mattered and I felt it had a spirit.” – Issac Brock

Up next came “Back to the Middle” from Modest Mouse’s most recent album, 2021’s The Golden Casket, before Brock would swap out his guitar for a banjo and deliver a playful backwoods rendition of “This Devil’s Workday.” His intense delivery and ferocious growls often overshadowing the brilliance of his songwriting, Brock’s unique perspective and ability to translate surrealism into words have long made him among this generations most thought-provoking lyricists.

After busting out the beloved B-Side of “King Rat” and then 1997’s “Heart Cooks Brain,” Modest Mouse would then get the crowd singing along with the recent radio hit “We Are Between,” before Brock would really sink his teeth into the performance with a jaw dropping version of “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box,” which featured Isaac playing the guitar solo behind his head and then with his mouth! Falling just short of going full blown Marty McFly, the kids at Ommegang absolutely loved Brock’s vintage rock-star antics here and would erupt even further when the song seamlessly transitioned into the chart topping “Float On,” the bands breakout hit from 2004’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News.

Following“The Whale Song,” the quick 75 minute, career spanning set would come to a close with another upbeat singalong, “Dashboard.” Fantastic, focused and swinging for the fences, the amount of “good songs” this band still had left in their arsenal is quite a testament to just how deep and diverse their catalogue runs.    

Modest Message: “Don’t worry, even if things end up a bit too heavy we’ll all float on.”

With two bonified headliners on the same bill, there was a strong showing of followers for each. Between sets, it was a playful conversation starter to ask which of the two you were really there to see. While the majority didn’t hesitate to say “both,” I was surprised by just how many blamed the Friday night out on their partners, saying “oh, my wife loves the Pixies, she was obsessed with them in high school,” as if there was some kind of wrong answer or guilt for admiring either of these groups and still listening to them. 

After a brief “7th inning stretch”, suddenly the lights went dark and the legendary Pixies stepped up to the plate using The Beatles “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” as their walk-up music. Stoic, confident and fierce, the band opened up their performance with fan favorite “Gouge Away,” followed by two more songs also from the bands iconic 1989 album Doolittle, “I Bleed,” and “Crackity Jones,” before going all the way back to the beginning with “Isla de Encanta” from their earliest album Come on Pilgrim.

A lot of Doolittle: Pixies performed 9 songs from their iconic album Doolittle on 8/25/23.

With the current lineup consisting of original members Black Francis, Joey Santiago, and drummer David Lovering, the band would name Paz Lenchantin as their permanent bassist in 2016. Providing ample energy on the low end, the crunchy groove of “Planet of Sound” never sounded better as bandleader Black Francis belted out at the near full moon, before “There’s A Moon On” had fans dancing under it. Black Francis, the type of guy that wears sunglasses at night, appeared to be dressed for a funeral, but make no mistake, Pixies are alive and well in 2023. Often imitated, never duplicated, his primal and raw delivery sounded as visceral this night as it did 30 years ago.

With his distinct vocal style ranging from dynamic bloodcurdling shrieks, to melodic, near spoken word nonchalance, his lyrics remain as cryptic and open to interpretation as ever. We’d get a healthy dose of the new stuff next with a “triple play” of songs from their latest album. 2022’s Doggerel, before bringing the audience back to more familiar territory with some of their biggest tunes like “Here Comes Your Man,” “Motorway to Roswell,” and “Caribou,” which the person next to me hailed as their best song.

Here comes your frontman: Black Francis was in fine form at Brewery Ommegang on 8/25/23.

While many romanticize about the Pixies and their obvious influence on 90’s music, you don’t often think of them as a romance band meant for date night. The fans at Ommegang, however, never got that memo as couples all around found great joy in reliving the soundtrack of their youth, stealing kisses in the key moments, savoring every second as one of their all-time favorite groups serenaded them under the misty, cinematic skies. Enchanting and magnetic, Paz Lenchantin, the original bass player of Maynard James Keenan’s A Perfect Circle and Billy Corgan’s Zwan, here now as a Pixie, seemed to be having the most fun out of everyone. Headbanging through the fog and shadows on her beautiful Fender 69 P-bass, picking away on classic tunes like “Hey,” “Cecilia Ann” and the crowd pleasing “Debaser.”

Debasser: Paz Lenchantin picks away on classic Pixies songs on 8/25/23.

Bright, loud, and beautiful, fans knew almost every word to every song for the remainder of the show.  From 1987’s “Holiday Song,” to another pair of hits from Doolittle, a surfed-out version of “Wave of Mutilation” and the climate change wakeup call of “Monkey Gone to Heaven” that saw the often experimental Francis take sonic frequencies to the warning track, building a wall of swirling distortion as he shoved his guitar into the amps creating intentional feedback. The career spanning set wouldn’t be complete, though, without the most well-known song in the Pixies catalog, “Where is My Mind?”

Gone to Heaven: Pixies performed a Hall of Fame setlist on 8/25/23.

While playing it every night may feel like a chore for some members of the band, it was quite clear that it still resonates after all these years and that the next generation of kids who only know Pixies from the 1999 David Fincher film Fight Club – were here for it too. Holding their phones up in lieu of lighters, the massive field of cellular fireflies created a stunning visual image and a feeling that you were experiencing an epic moment in time courtesy of one of Rock’s most influential bands. While the show could have ended there and no one would have complained, we were then treated to one final ‘call to the bullpen’ for a cover by one of the original pioneers of Punk. Closing the show with a searing rendition of Neil Young’s “Winterlong” to put an emphatic stamp on a fantastic 26-song set of timeless alternative anthems. Convening at the center of the stage to take their bows, fireworks began illuminating the night as the Pixies slowly faded into it, triumphantly bringing another successful Summer Concert Series at Brewery Ommegang to a close. A bitter-sweet realization, but hey, as they say in baseball, “there’s always next year.” We’re already looking forward to it.

Pixies closed out Brewery Ommegang’s Summer Concert season on 8/25/23.

Pixies | August 25, 2023 | Brewery Ommegang | Cooperstown, NY

Setlist: Gouge Away, I Bleed, Crackity Jones, Isla de Encanta, Planet of Sound, There’s a Moon On, Who’s More Sorry Now?, Get Stimulated, The Lord Has Come Back Today, Mr. Grieves, Death Horizon, Here Comes Your Man, Motorway to Roswell, Snakes, Caribou, Hey, Doggerel, Cecilia Ann*, St. Nazaire, Debaser, Cactus, The Holiday Song, Monkey Gone to Heaven, Wave of Mutilation**, Where is My Mind?, Winterlong***

*The Surfones cover
**UK Surf version
***Neil Young cover

Modest Mouse | August 25, 2023 | Brewery Ommegang | Cooperstown, NY

Setlist: Dark Center of the Universe, Tiny City Made of Ashes, Fire It Up, Dramamine > Life Like Weeds, Breakthrough, Breakthrough, Baby Blue Sedan, Back to the Middle, This Devil’s Workday, King Rat, Heart Cooks Brain, We Are Between, The Ground Walks, With Time In a Box > Float On, The Whale Song, Dashboard.


Modest Mouse

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