A bloody shame

Isaac Brock Sioux Falls (Pitchfork)Sunday’s Modest Mouse show was hampered by my oldness.

It didn’t seem so great for Isaac Brock, Modest Mouse frontman, either. It turns out that some small act of triviality I had written off was much more serious than I had first realized.

Somewhere about halfway through the show, I noticed that Brock had turned toward his amp, stopped playing (he may have taken off his guitar, I can’t remember) and started acting weird.

Suddenly, a sound tech hopped up, grabbed Brock and hugged him – talking close to his ear and seemingly comforting him. Brock turned around and there was a visible blood spot on his shirt.

I didn’t think anything of it. I mentioned something to Kerrie — “there’s blood on his shirt” — and wrote it off as a crazy artist doing crazy artist things. I likened it to a Jim Morrison freakout – swinging guitars, stumbling cord tangles, mumbling and general unawareness. I had read in an article that Brock didn’t drink before shows anymore, so I just figured he was being a weirdo – it wouldn’t be the first time, you know.

He had just hit himself in the head a few quick times in the vein of a tortured artist, so I scoffed. And then I wrote it off. I assumed the blood was from something related to that.

Well, not so much.

According to Pitchfork (and found on Scott Hudson’s Rant-A-Bit), it was a little bit more serious.

“Does anybody know a way that/A body could get away/Does anybody know a way?!”

Isaac Brock attempted to answer his own “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” query in drastic fashion at a recent Modest Mouse show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, according to several eyewitness reports. While performing the Moon and Antarctica standout at Ramkota Exhibit Hall on March 18, Brock allegedly began hitting himself in the face with his microphone, then proceeded to draw a knife and cut his own chest.

According to reader Joshua Cole, after deliberately bonking his head, Brock “then walked back to his amp, grabbed a pocket knife, and cut a 12 inch cut across his chest. His assistant had to grab the knife and stop him. He was bleeding the rest of the concert, and later fell off the stage into the barrier before singing in the crowd.”

“The show carried on despite Isaac’s bleeding and various people’s concerns,” said Cole.

What was that all about? I have no idea. Have things really gotten so messed up in Brock’s head that he snapped, dragging knives across his chest and smashing his head. Had the stress of beginning a new tour hit him all at once?

Or was this a calculated effort to get publicity? I find it hard to believe that someone as reportedly angry and cynical as Isaac Brock would resort to self-mutilation, a cry for help – the type of attitude that it seems Brock would hate.

At times, Brock seemed almost zombie-like. His rambling diatribes during songs bordered on the insane. His crowd-speak was robotic and forced. But that’s Brock, right? That’s what he does. That’s part of his art.

Was Brock on drugs? Was he really drinking? It he mentally unstable? What the hell happened up there? Is this all just crazy speculation that drives record sales?

While I didn’t get a chance to truly see what happened, I do remember the dazed look on the rest of the band’s face. I remember noticing Johnny Marr’s attitude – a slow decent from rocking guitarist to sheepish bystander. Everyone seemed to be walking on eggshells, and Brock was slowly spiraling out of control. I chalked it up to a spirited front man with a low sense of self-preservation and a band that had seen it all a tiring number of times before. I never though it was an act of mutilation.

If there’s one thing I can’t handle, it’s the attention-seeking self-mutilation attitude. I don’t understand it. I sympathize, and I understand that help is needed, and that it’s a serious problem. I realize that everyone has personal demons, but I also recognize the selfishness of the act. It deserves help. But I often wonder how many times it’s truly a mental imbalance and how many times it’s for attention only.

Knowing what I know now, I feel as though I’ve just watched a snuff film – that the act of Brock cutting himself was the act of cutting off his fanbase, of elevating himself from indie rocker to tortured artist, from Ben Gibbard to Pete Doherty. He was acting out some crazy notion of self hate.

Hell, who knows why he did it, really? Who can ever understand the mind of someone else?

(Update: Yeah, according to the Link blog (which I’ve finally found) he was sauced, apparently. Oh well. It makes sense now — his performance, his cutting, etc. That’s too bad. And quite annoying.)

This was lovingly handwritten on March 21st, 2007