“Yeah, we sold out… we sold out every show, every night.”

How did Modest Mouse sell out?

Maybe I’m just being too sensitive, but here’s something I don’t understand. I’ve never gotten the idea of trashing a band because they’ve gotten big, because they’ve become popular, just for that sake. I’ve never really figured out the reasoning behind this – maybe I never will.

I bring this up primarily because I like to gripe about things, and now, with this new fancy electronic medium I have at my disposal, I can gripe to more people than just Kerrie, who’s really probably tired of it anyway.

Anyway, this weekend we are going to Minneapolis to see Modest Mouse, a band that initially was an underground novelty which blossomed into indie-rock darlings, and now, after 5 years of buzz, has broken into the mainstream, if only for a little while. Their newest album, which is their second major-label release, is consistently on sale at Best Buy, is referenced by all of the major “independent” sources (Spin, AP, and commercial “indie-rock” radio), and, for a while, was a major force in the MTV Buzz Bin genre. Everybody who was everybody listed Good News For People Who Love Bad News as one of the top ten albums of the year, and, hell, they’re selling out two shows per city in the larger clubs.

Which, of course, means they sold out as a band as well.

This is what I don’t get, how a band suddenly changes when they are exposed to the larger populace, as if they have some sort of appendage that sprouts from their waists whenever they reach a fan base of 4 million people. Sometimes this is true. Some bands go the Filter/Jimmy Eat World route, where they become progressively more and more pussy as their careers progress, like they’re entering the “twilight” years of their recording catalog. But most bands don’t – this is just an indie-myth. Four extra tracks in the recording studio and flashy new packaging does not change most bands, in fact, most of these bands continue to produce the same music and flounder because of it… suddenly they are NOT the next big thing, suddenly they are that “quirky band that MTV loved for a few months.” Ask The Killers, or Bright Eyes. They’re riding the same wave that Modest Mouse rode just six months ago, and that Beck, Ween, Blur, and other various “legends” rode in the years before that.

I mean… come on! Listen to me… rambling on and on about the independent sanctity of a Seattle band that nobody used to care about. Everyone has a favorite obscure band…sometimes that obscure band is their favorite band… and everyone wants to see that band succeed. Everyone tells their friends about that favorite band, and everyone is pretty excited and kind of shocked when that favorite band hits the mainstream for the first, if not the only, time. And everyone secretly wants their favorite band to stick it in the craw of those other established bands. I want to see bands like Bright Eyes, Interpol and Modest Mouse standing alongside U2 and Metallica, basking in the glory of their new-found popularity while flipping the bird to the established acts in the process. Hell, those small bands will be ground down again soon enough, so I say good for them while it lasts.

I hate to sound so “un-punk-rock” about this, but I don’t really see any problem with a band doing well on a national stage, as long as they do it their way. Modest Mouse is still playing the same quirky, non-radio friendly music they have in the past, it’s just that the radio culture seems to be enjoying something the rest of us enjoyed years ago.

I’m glad that Modest Mouse is making money doing what they like to do. And I’ll be glad when they put out their next album to little praise, and to no fanfare, and they have to go back to selling out just one First Ave. show, instead of four in seven months.

Then, maybe, it will be cool for us to admit we like them again.

This was lovingly handwritten on February 23rd, 2005