25 Apr 2016

Modern Baseball @ Norwich Owl Sanctuary (live review)

Emo slacker bands don’t come more notorious than Philadelphia, USA’s Modern Baseball, who tonight bring a storm of sweat and booze to The Owl Sanctuary with a little help from their pals.
Three Man Cannon are first on. They’re more chilled than they may appear, although one of the group dons what looks like a black nylon kimono, so you make the deduction. The vocals are reminiscent of Thomas Mars from Phoenix, but instrumentally it’s more lo-fi indie rock with an edge. Think pulled up socks and slipped down worries.

Scrawny Toronto punks PUP are up next. If the stoners of the world united to form a country, PUP would sing the national anthem. The four-piece previously gave Norwich something to talk about when they supported The Front Bottoms in 2014, and tonight their return is nothing short of majestic. “We’ve never really come to the UK before and had people give a shit”, frontman Stefan Babcock notes, but you couldn’t tell. He controls the hordes of teen slackers with ease, powering through new material – If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will being the most appropriate – and old, especially Reservoir, a scuzzy monstrosity that ends their rumbling set in suitably disgusting style.

By the time Modern Baseball clamber on stage, The Owl Sanctuary is a cesspit of grease and endorphins, the floor slippery and the walls wet with anticipation. “Hey buds, we’re PUP from Canada”, guitarist Brendan Lukens teases, leading into Fine, Great to open. It’s both impressive and shocking how much chaos kicks off within seconds of the first riff. Jumped-up kids climb over one another to get on stage, only to dive off it again moments later (leading to a request from Lukens for people to not “jump off our shit”).

Cuts from the group’s first two records and upcoming third release Holy Ghost are interspersed, but most of the songs merge into one long rock-out session. Going To Bed gets a cheer as guitar/vocalist Jake Ewald takes a swing at “assholes with iPhones”, and The Old Gospel Choir starts deceptively slow, offering a breather before pumping things up a notch with spiralling guitars and more of the sorry-for-yourself cathartic lyrics that Modern Baseball are known for.

The performance seems to trail off towards the end, perhaps because the band have to stop every few minutes to clear fans from their performance space, but it’s testament to just how electric the atmosphere is that they have to clean sweat from their instruments just as regularly. But a great band in a great venue on a Saturday night could never be anything but perfect, right? By all accounts, tonight marks an incredible evening of music from a band who it was a privilege to experience live. Modern Baseball, keep doing what you’re doing cuz we bloody love it.

Words: Alex Cabré