Reviews: Modest Mouse and Karl Denson 

Live reviews and images from big shows of the week

click to enlarge Modest Mouse's crowd at the Music Farm

Alex Carelli

Modest Mouse's crowd at the Music Farm

Modest Mouse
Music Farm
July 20

Charleston's usual pastel-polo-shirt-and-preppy-popped-collar crew were pushed aside — or at least diluted — by asymmetrical haircuts and skinny jeans on Tuesday night when Modest Mouse took over the Music Farm for a raucous indie dance party.

Charleston has been making an effort to create a more welcoming environment for the progressive hipster types in the art and music world, and judging by the droves of people in attendance, there is definitely a market and demand for it.

As I walked up Ann Street around 9 p.m., sweaty 20-somethings with sticky cigarette-stained fingers poured out the front door and swarmed the sidewalk. Inside the Music Farm, moisture soaked the brick walls and writhing bodies pushed against each other in attempt to secure some sort of standing room; in short, the place was packed.

To the delight of seemingly all attendees (judging by the eruption of screams and fist pumps), the Mouse cranked out "Doin' the Cockroach" from The Lonesome Crowded West early on in the set, and later rounded it out with everyone's favorite from Good News for People Who Love Bad News, "Float On".

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Charlestonians aren't truly huge Modest Mouse fans — perhaps that progressive movement hasn't truly taken hold yet — because they didn't display the same frightening fervor for too many other songs. But a few gems seemed to hold the crowd over and energy was high through the remainder of the show.

The Mouse capped it off with a four-song encore, but the pseudo-fans were hungry for more and the lights went down to chants of "One more song! One more song!" Alas, you can't please everyone. —Alex Carelli


Karl Denson's Tiny Universe
The Windjammer
July 22

In many ways, Karl Denson is the heir to Maceo Parker, carrying on the tradition of funk-injected jazz and leading his band through high-octane live shows. Both sax men are formidable presences on stage, and their dexterity with their instruments lends constant forward momentum to their music.

On July 22 at the Windjammer, Denson and his Tiny Universe rode that momentum through two fiery sets that covered the jazz-funk-soul landscape. They projected more energy and outward enjoyment than their last appearance in Charleston (a fairly lackluster performance at the Music Farm that was dominated by the opening band, NOMO).

A classic-jazz vamp kicked things off, followed by a quick drop into “The Answer,” a groovy tune that demonstrated yet another similarity to Parker’s band: tightness. Well rehearsed, the Tiny Universe hit each transition with remarkable precision.

The Universe expanded over the course of the next two songs — “Whip Wop” and the Band of Gypsys’ classic “Power of Soul” — demonstrating not only Denson’s prowess on the tenor sax (my instrument of choice for him), but also his leadership. Exhorting the crowd while jamming on tambourine and other percussion, Denson goaded the other band members into unexpected changes contributed to an engaging concert experience.

A porn-funk intro signaled the opening of “Change with You,” one of the highlights of the night. Following the final chorus, Denson switched from sax to flute for the first time, and the band locked into a deep groove, complemented by horn blasts from trumpeter Chris Littlefield. Denson introduced “Grenadiers” as a tribute to the films of Russ Meyer. The song didn’t disappoint. It reeked of good-humored exploitation and you could almost envision scantily clad women frolicking around on the silver screen.

Other highlights included a well-rendered version of Led Zeppelin’s seldom-played “Trampled Under Foot” and an ass-kicking duo of “Oranges” and “The Bridge,” with short but expressive solos from Denson, Littlefield, and the always-reliable guitarist Brian Jordan.—Eric Liebetrau


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