By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Mar 02, 2005 at 5:27 AM Photography: OnMilwaukee Staff Writers

{image1} I dropped almost $30 to see Modest Mouse this weekend and all I got was this lousy photo. OK, maybe that's not fair. The photo isn't lousy. But the big smiles on our faces alluding to a great time had by all is misleading; the photo was shot by The Rave's art director Rob Miller before the show even started. But that's just how good promoters work.

The good times aren't killing me, they are eluding me. The show was disappointing. Before this goes any further, let's just put this out there: the problem wasn't the sound. It's no secret that the Ballroom's acoustics are questionable. The good news is that whomever's job it is to remedy this situation is in fact making steps toward improvement. With newly carpeted walls and an updated PA system, The Rave may have a fighting chance. The bad news is that the less-than-perfect sound was the least of our concerns at Saturday's show.

Stagnantly awkward breaks between songs and almost no crowd interaction on the part of the band were just the icing on the lack-of-variety cake. If you wanted to go to this show but missed it, pop in "Good News for People Who Love Bad News" and hit shuffle. It's nothing new for a band to favor its new stuff, but this was practically a complete departure from its underground past. If I hadn't previously experienced the band's performance potential, I may have just sucked it up and taken this show at face value. But I've seen them play two amazing (and significantly less expensive) shows in Chicago, which leads me to wonder if bands play favorites when it comes to cities. And more importantly, why is Milwaukee not getting any love? Their shows sellout here the same as they do in Chicago or any other city, so what gives?

I pondered this thought as I scanned the house. I watched the sea of people dancing and shouting the lyrics to "Float On" settle into a virtually motionless calm as the band cranked out a couple tracks from 1997's "Lonesome Crowded West." "Cowboy Dan," an older quirky favorite, was not going to be a hit with this crowd, the bulk of which were clearly newer fans. I had found my answer as to why the Milwaukee show appeared, in my opinion, to be devoid of the classic Modest Mouse goods. Isaac and his crew were catering toward the slew of new fans. It was us versus them. The battle of the fans.


Chicago got the rockin' shows because it is seen as a city with a higher percentage of "old fans," but Milwaukee, apparently, is viewed as a town that has just recently discovered them, and therefore has no need for the early stuff. Just crank out the hits. Are we that easy to please? And where were all the old fans anyway? After 2004's appearance, they probably just knew better. But this isn't about snobbery; it's about quality.

I went in search of validation. Who else in this crowded ballroom would agree with me? I ran into several members of Milwaukee's Clementine, including drummer Matt Schmeling, who had with him a copy of his band's live recording of a Cactus Club show. Inside the case were a bunch of little stickers boasting Milwaukee's new mark. This package's hopeful destination? The hands of Mr. Isaac Brock. Can the eager rocksters of this city help convince Modest Mouse that our music scene is as good as, say, Chicago's, or will small, local shows continue to be a better bang for your indie buck? See for yourself this weekend. Clementine is playing on Friday, March 4 at the Points East Pub with Those Royals, Aviator, Fearless Leader and Hollow Chasing Boy. The show is a benefit for Milwaukee Artists for Social Change (MASC). Visit for more info.

Saturday night's Mad Planet line-up looks pretty promising as well. As mentioned in Monday's El Oso interview, both the 5 and 10 p.m. shows are CD release parties for El Oso and Decibully. But what makes the all-ages show worth attending is the addition of a band called Silentium Amoris. Latin for "The Silence of Love," the band found its name in the title of an Oscar Wilde poem. Similar to the unpredictable beauty of Wilde's Irish poetry, Silentuim Amoris furnishes its sound by purposefully contrasting that which doesn't normally go together.

"We definitely have an ethereal sound, probably due to the lack of a drummer," says keyboard/vocalist Rachel Fell. But that's not to say the music isn't focused or held together at the seams. Iam Fuchs masters beat manipulation on a drum machine and bassist Bryan Kroes' deep vocals lend themselves to balancing, but not dominating, the airy lightness of Fell's melodies. Chris Johnson's acoustic guitar adds an organically familiar element to the almost eerie mood that dominates their debut album, "In Vino Vertas."

"We're really happy with the album," says Kroes. "We've really evolved over the past few years." They certainly have progressed since I first saw them play UWM's 8th Note Coffeehouse in early 2004, but Fell admits they are not really as organized, structurally, as they may sound. This, she says, is a good thing. "This band has always been a really collaborative effort in every sense. There's no real leader, we just play off each other. It's always changing." You can find their CD at Atomic and Rushmore Records, and the band on stage at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”