The IU Auditorium stage was alight Friday night in a fiery color scheme – red, orange and yellow lights cut through a haze of smoke as Modest Mouse launched into its popular “Lampshades on Fire” near the beginning of its Bloomington show.
After acknowledging the radio hit, the alternative rockers powered on to play a long two hours, stretching the six studio albums made over 22 years into an abnormally long concert.
In the years most IU seniors were born in– 1996 and '97 – the group released its first two studio albums. As most of those students approached the end of elementary school in 2004, the band birthed its emblematic hit, “Float On.”
The song took its rightful place in the encore Friday night and earned animated singing and stomping along from the audience. The auditorium, though, isn’t exactly conducive to channeling the raw energy produced by fans of a post-punk band.
Fans Evangelos Lekkas and Nick Vander Velden both said they prefer an open venue so they can be closer to the stage and other people, but both said the sound in the acoustically-optimized auditorium was great.
Lekkas’ uncle, Ben Massarella, is the drummer for Modest Mouse.
“My uncle just happens to be in the greatest band in the world,” Lekkas said.
He’s seen the band a multitude of times – recently in Wisconsin and previously in Illinois, Kentucky and now Bloomington. He drove down from Chicago where he’s a freshman at DePaul University. He joked the band must not like Chicago because the group has only stopped twice, once for a music festival and once on a shared tour with Brand New.
Lekkas calls Massarella Uncle Benny and yelled out in support of him during song breaks.
The band’s lineup has shifted over the years, even counting The Smith’s Johnny Marr as guitarist for a couple years. Founding member and lead singer Isaac Brock has consistently led the band since 1993, and founding member and drummer Jeremiah Green rejoined in 2004 after a year break.
Lekkas said Massarella has been touring with the band since 2012, but played on the 2000 album “The Moon & Antarctica” and the latest, 2015’s “Strangers to Ourselves.” He lives in Valparaiso, Indiana, when he’s not touring.
Lekkas said he got into Modest Mouse before he knew his uncle played with them. As one does, he first heard the band because “Float On” was a song choice on "Rock Band II". In middle school, “Good News For People Who Love Bad News” became the first album he ever listened to front-to-back.
“I just happen to love them, and he happens to be in them,” Lekkas said.
He also sports a tattoo of the album artwork – an anchor tied to a hot air balloon – from “We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank.”
“It’s about how life has the good and the bad, and you have to stay level,” he said.
Lekkas enthusiastically interacted with the audience around him, including Vander Velden who was a row behind him. They talked about their favorite songs and albums and wagered what songs would be played next.
Vander Velden, 24, said Modest Mouse was one of his favorite bands and had driven from his home in Kentucky to see them.
“I live for the music,” Vander Velden said. “It’s unbelievable to see a band I live for.”