It’s always a pleasure to be able to watch a band you’ve loved from the very beginning of their career slowly evolve into one of the sought-after bands in their own respective genre. Like the passing of a shooting star, being able to take part in this occurrence is rare and not always guaranteed, but when it happens, it’s extraordinary to witness, and often believed to be on the basis of luck.
However, luck had nothing to do with the sudden growth of the indie-emo quartet Modern Baseball. Hailing from a mixture of Brunswick and Frederick, MD, the four has seen an exponential growth in popularity over the past few months or so. Whether it came from the band’s six-week excursion across the United States opening for soon to be pop-punk royalty The Wonder Years, or from the commanding success of their recent album You’re Gonna Miss It All via Run for Cover Records – it’s arguable that the intensity of Modern Baseball’s success was one that happened overnight. Doing so, however, would ultimately take away from the impact they’ve slowly, then immediately, had on their growing fanbase.
All of that hard work culminated into reaction the band received last Thursday, June 12th, at the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids, Michigan, just one of the band’s 15 headlining dates across a number of A and B markets across the east coast and Midwest for Modern Baseball’s highly anticipated summer tour. While not the first proper headliner the band has gone on (the band headlined a small string of winter shows back in January with The Hundred Acre Woods and The Color & The Sound), this is definitely the first headliner where all eyes are fixated on the band – interested in seeing what Modern Baseball is able to bring to the table of headlining status.
The night kicked off at 7:30, as beloved local emo darlings Secret Grief (formerly Tiger! Tiger!) took the stage. For area fans of the band, many took the addition of Secret Grief as local support to be a no-brainer. Not only did the band’s affection for the headliner show through the fact they’ve supported them every previous time they’ve come through Michigan’s west coast, but the band’s triumphantly melancholy indie-emo sound coalesced extremely well with the rest of the bill. While I wasn’t as familiar with the band’s backlog of material as the roughly thirty diehard fans in the front-right of the crowd, the band’s sound and aesthetic alone were enough for me to want to explore it, as well as their upcoming record due out later this year.
Once 8:15 rolled around, the first band on the touring bill began their set: Hartford, Connecticut quartet Sorority Noise. I had the privilege of going into the evening’s show with a lot of knowledge about the band’s debut album Forgettable (Broken World Media), but very little knowledge of how the band performed in a live setting. For a band that’s particularly new to the indie/emo scene, I had unknown expectations for how the act’s live show would resonate with an audience. And because of this, Sorority Noise acted as the biggest surprise of the night.
The band’s most likable qualities were able to come alive during their set that night. Sorority Noise soars when it comes to mixing self-depreciating, yet almost ironically referential lyrics about their genre, with the appropriately mopey, distorted guitar work and overall musicianship many come to expect. Because of this, the band was able to fully represent the brand of Sorority Noise in the best way possible. Songs from Forgettable, such as “Rory Shield” and “Dirty Ickes,” were able to electrify the crowd in ways I never thought could be explored. When all is said and done, the boys of Sorority Noise, especially vocalist/guitarist/brainchild Cameron Boucher (Old Gray) has an incredibly bright future ahead of them.
Worcester, MA emo-rock quartet The Hotelier was next on the bill. Out of all of the bands billed for tonight’s show, The Hotelier’s half hour was the one I was uncontrollably excited for. Not only did the band release their poetic, poignant and furiously passionate sophomore album Home, Like Noplace is There (Tiny Engines) earlier this year, but since then, the band’s popularity and recognition in the genre has increased ten-fold in the punk community. Many have called the band’s record an early frontrunner for 2014’s Album of the Year…and we aren’t even at the halfway point. Luckily for me, the band’s entire set was devoted to the recent success of their latest record, as the band played eight of the album’s nine songs (save for “Housebroken”).
The increasingly complex build of “An Introduction to the Album” played out extremely well live, especially when transitioning into the tracks later in the record, specifically “Your Deep Rest,” “Life in Drag” and phenomenal closer “Dendron.” While the aggressive nature of the crowd did ultimately leave a sour taste in my mouth, the band itself performed spectacularly well, especially for gaining so much momentum in such a short amount of time.
After grabbing a beverage and playing a quick few games of pinball in the venue’s lobby, I went back into the main room to catch the majority of Tiny Moving Parts’ set. Though the band’s scream-sing style of vocal delivery has always caught me as a turnoff when listening to their music on record (think La Dispute, but a little more straightforward approach), I will say that the band’s spirited live performance all but made up for that fact. What thoroughly impressed me, considering everything the band’s set had to offer was how enthusiastically everything was presented, especially the guitar/vocal work of Dylan Mattheisen. The music’s dizzying progressions and hard left turns are no easy feat to witness, let alone perform. With that, I enjoyed myself thoroughly during the band’s performance, and have an entirely new respect for the band.
And now on to the main event: Modern Baseball. From the moment I saw the band perform just last year at Bled Fest on a side stage no bigger than the one they’d be playing tonight at the Pyramid Scheme, I knew the band was something special. Never before had I seen a crowd so entranced in such simple, yet sincere lyrics and such basic, yet extremely catchy chord progressions. People were absolutely entranced in having the best time they possibly could. However, a lot has happened in just a year’s time – the band’s released more material, had more experience touring, and as a result, their popularity has increased five times over (in Facebook likes, at least).
The band has realized this, and has now been able to craft their live show into the crazy, passionate, genuine, awkward and extremely charming set they’ve longed for it to be. Over the course of their given hour, the band provided a healthy mix of old and new. Not only were tracks from their excellent new record You’re Gonna Miss It All performed (“Broken Cash Machine,” “Rock Bottom,” “Charlie Black,” etc), but the band also tapped into the older material from their debut LP Sports, and the track they contributed to last year’s six-way FEST split “Voting Early.”
What made the evening’s show spectacular, however, were the little things. For instance, co-vocalist/guitarist Brenden Lukens had come down with a case of pneumonia after the first of the tour’s 15 date schedule, leaving him out of the picture for the remainder of the tour. However, Boucher of Sorority Noise came to the rescue and seamlessly performed with the band. Additionally, throughout the night, the energy and support the band members gave each other was undeniably palpable. From the minor support of watching each other’s bands perform, to the extremes of The Hotelier and Tiny Moving Parts shotgunning beers during the “The Weekend,” it was a sight to see such a loving connection displayed through a variety of ways. And the final song of the band’s set before coming back on for an encore, “Your Graduation,” was easily the highlight of the night. I couldn’t tell you whether it was the high school graduate that came to the show to stage dive in his cap & gown, or if it was drummer Sean Huber coming up to the front to sing his contributed verse, but something connected in a powerful way while watching the band that inexplicably captured all of the likeability and lovable qualities that Modern Baseball are providing their genre with today.
No one knows what will become of Modern Baseball in the coming weeks, months, years, but one thing’s for sure: They’ve built themselves one hell of a foundation to start out with.