The Indelible Impact of Modest Mouse and The Pixies: A Concert Dream for the Hollywood Bowl Review+Photos: Pixies, Modest Moust & Cat Power at the Hollywood Bowl 9/18/23
LOS ANGELES, CA- In the sprawling narrative of music history, certain bands emerge as influential touchstones, shaping the sound and direction of genres and inspiring countless musicians in their wake. Two such influential acts in the realm of alternative and indie rock are the Pixies and Modest Mouse. While they hail from different eras and brought unique flavors to the rock milieu, their combined legacy underscores why a concert featuring both would undoubtedly sell out an iconic venue like the Hollywood Bowl.
The Pixies, formed in the mid-1980s, were game-changers in the alternative rock scene. Their pioneering “quiet-loud-quiet” dynamic paved the way for a sound that became emblematic of 90s alternative rock. Their albums, especially the seminal “Surfer Rosa” and “Doolittle”, are canonical works, admired not only by fans but by fellow musicians. When Kurt Cobain, the frontman of Nirvana, cites a band like the Pixies as a pivotal influence and credits them for inspiring a mega-hit like “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, it speaks volumes about their impact.
Modest Mouse, on the other hand, captured the essence of the 2000s indie rock movement. Their music — characterized by its introspective lyrics, inventive instrumentation, and emotional rawness — set them apart in a crowded field. Tracks like “Float On” and “Dashboard” are not just songs but anthems, echoing the sentiments of a generation. Their ability to evolve, moving from the edginess of their earlier works to the polish of albums like “Good News for People Who Love Bad News”, underscores their versatility and relevance.
Considering the Hollywood Bowl’s rich history and its reputation as one of the world’s premier concert venues, hosting a dual bill with Modest Mouse and the Pixies was a fitting tribute to its legacy. Both bands, with their massive fan bases and critical acclaim proved that with a sold out crowd on September 18, 2023.
Cat Power, with her sultry voice and soul-stirring melodies, took to the stage to set the mood for the evening. Her selection as the opening act was a testament to the enduring power of her music and its synergy with the headlining bands.
Cat Power, the stage name for Chan Marshall, has carved a niche for herself with her evocative songwriting, distinctive voice, and heartfelt performances. Much like Modest Mouse and The Pixies, Marshall’s music resonates deeply with listeners, often taking them on a profound emotional journey. It was, therefore, a fitting choice to have her open for two bands that have, in their own right, touched the souls of their fans across generations.
Her set at the Hollywood Bowl was a tapestry of emotion, nostalgia, and raw power. Opening with a haunting rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, Cat Power immediately captivated the audience, making a classic her own with her unique style. This ability to reinvent and infuse soul into covers was evident as she later took on Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”, adding her signature touch to a timeless classic, and closing her set on a poignant note.
Of her originals, “Good Woman” and “Hate” showcased her introspective songwriting, touching on themes of love, pain, and redemption. “Manhattan” and “The Greatest” were reflective, encapsulating the essence of her music — a blend of melancholy, hope, and resilience. “The Moon”, with its ethereal quality, transported the audience to a tranquil space, preparing them for the roller coaster of sounds that Modest Mouse and The Pixies would soon bring.
In many ways, Cat Power’s set was a bridge — connecting the raw energy of the Pixies’ era, the introspective indie vibes of Modest Mouse, and the timeless classics she chose to cover. Her music is a testament to the enduring power of raw emotion, a thread that ties her to the evening’s main acts.
When Modest Mouse took center stage they reminded me why they remain an enduring force in the indie rock scene. For many, including this reviewer, the concert was a trip down memory lane, while also serving as a reintroduction to the band’s enduring prowess.
As the familiar chords of “Doin’ the Cockroach” resonated through the amphitheater, there was an immediate connection, a communal energy that permeated the space. The setlist was an immersive blend of their entire repertoire, covering their entire discography.
For many of us who had our most intense Modest Mouse phase during the “The Moon & Antarctica” to “We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank” era, the concert brought waves of nostalgia. The standout moments for me of the night came with the beloved tracks from that golden era. “King Rat”, with its infectious energy, had the audience on their feet, reliving memories associated with that particular tune. “Ocean Breathes Salty” was a soulful rendition, evoking a sense of melancholy and reflection, while “Float On”, arguably their most iconic song, was met with roaring approval, turning the Bowl into a vast sing-along.
While the familiar tracks tugged at the heartstrings, the entire performance was a testament to Modest Mouse’s consistency. Even for those less acquainted with their more recent work… like me… the band’s ability to engage and captivate was evident. Songs like “Back To The Middle” showcased their range, proving that while nostalgia is a powerful sentiment, Modest Mouse’s present is as compelling as their past.
Modest Mouse delivered a performance that was both a tribute to their legacy and a promise of continued brilliance. For fans old and new, it was a night to remember, a reminder of why we fell in love with the band in the first place.
In a landscape of ever-evolving musical talents, some bands transcend time, leaving an indelible mark on fans and the industry alike. The Pixies, with their mix of raw energy and haunting melodies, have long occupied that rarified space. Their headlining set at the Hollywood Bowl was nothing short of spectacular, reminding everyone of their pioneering spirit and timeless appeal.
Opening with the powerful “Gouge Away”, the band set the tone for an evening of nostalgia, rediscovery, and pure musical ecstasy. The set was a beautiful blend of their iconic tracks and some lesser-known gems, showcasing the depth and versatility of their repertoire.
“Wave of Mutilation” early in the setlist laid down their trademark alternative sound, juxtaposed brilliantly by their cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On”, a testament to their ability to make any song uniquely their own.
While massive hits like “Where Is My Mind?” and “Here Comes Your Man” were met with expected euphoria, turning the venue into a massive choir, it was their deep cuts that showcased the band’s true artistry. “Planet of Sound”, from the often underrated album “Trompe le Monde”, was a particular highlight, reminding fans of the band’s diverse range and their willingness to experiment even after achieving mainstream success.
Throughout the set, Paz Lenchantin’s presence was undeniable. Not just with her bass lines and vocals but also with the continuous shouts of “I love you, Paz!” echoing from ardent (albeit fruitless) admirers. Her role in the band has only solidified over the years, and she stands as an essential pillar of their current sound.
The night was filled with moments of raw energy, especially with tracks like “Debaser” and “Monkey Gone To Heaven”, where the band’s synergy was palpable. Yet, they also brought the tempo down with evocative tracks like “Motorway To Roswell”, reminding everyone of their ability to evoke a wide spectrum of emotions.
Ending the set with Neil Young’s “Winterlong” was a beautiful touch, wrapping up the evening with a nod to another music legend, while stamping it with the Pixies’ unique sound.
In essence, the Pixies’ performance at the Hollywood Bowl was a masterclass in alternative rock. It was a journey through decades of music, a reaffirmation of their legendary status, and a promise that their music will continue to inspire, thrill, and move souls for generations to come.