Live review: Modern Baseball @ SWG3

By Fraser Bryce (@fraser_bryce)

I’ve spoken about the current climate shift in rock music in these pages so much that I’m beginning to bore myself. However, when I talk about the growth in popularity of more organic, genuine bands, no band fits that description better than Modern Baseball. Following the rapturous response to last year’s Holy Ghost, the Philadelphia based emo punks have found themselves booked into some pretty sizeable venues on this run. While the SWG3 is noticeably not sold out, there’s a large turnout for a Thursday night, at a venue that is in the middle of scenic buttfuck nowhere.

Now, I must be honest here. The night prior to this gig, I decked it in the pit at Anthrax – all captured in glorious high definition for a future DVD release – and gave myself a minor concussion. So you’ll have to forgive me if my memory is a little patchy.

First observations: SWG3 is amazing. After initially confusing the people working the door at the poetry slam next door, I finally made it in and holy shit this venue rules. In case you haven’t been, it’s basically a big warehouse that feels like an eccy den. It’s punk as fuck and I love it. The feel of the venue perfectly complements Modern Baseball. It suits their stripped down, no frills style and nonchalant stage presence.

Second observations: the material from Holy Ghost is streets ahead of the rest of their back catalogue. Starting the set with a run of three songs from the record sets the bar incredibly high – particularly in the case of opener ‘Wedding Singer’ – and the somewhat less engaging nature of their older material, combined with an incredibly muddy sound, means it all begins to merge into a wall of noise as the set progresses.

Thirdly: acoustic section. Nope.

The last section of the show features the band calling on support acts The Thin Lips and The Superweaks to perform songs usually performed by singer/guitarist Brendan Lukens, who was absent from the tour in order to focus on his mental health. This section of the show is far and away the highlight. The combination of the venue, the ramshackle backdrop and the revolving cast of musicians onstage makes it feel like the most illegal punk show I’ve ever been to. Furthermore, the guest vocalists provide a welcome change from vocalist/guitarist Jake Ewald, whose trademark monotone voice begins to grate on you after a while.

After the band finishes the set with a cover of The Killers’ ‘When You Were Young’, because why not, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. While the Holy Ghost material is a shining example of modern emo, the rest of the set felt lacklustre in comparison and it greatly harmed the show as a whole. Since the band announced an indefinite hiatus mere days after this gig, it’s a real shame that we might never get to see what Modern Baseball are fully capable of. There is greatness here, but it is few and far between.