A Modest Affair
When Parklife announced that the critically-acclaimed Modest Mouse would be gracing their stage this past Sunday, I was unbelievably excited. The announcement that the loved Washington-originating band would be touring South Africa was received with a lot of excitement and anticipation over social media. Modest Mouse are a band who have always maintained a very high calibre of music production, and have quenched the thirsty listener with some memorable and much-appreciated singles like Float on, Dashboard and The Ocean Breathes Salty, among others.
However, the air of anticipation quickly soured as the supporting acts were slowly announced. A list of generic South African indie pop bands – like Prime Circle and Kahn, formerly of the Parlotones – seemed so out of place with this prestigious act. Many avid fans slowly lost interest in the event because the tickets seemed too expensive for a day of mediocre music with only a single highlight.
Because of this, I was somewhat surprised by how many people were at Marks Park on Sunday – especially after hearing many despondent replies from die-hard fans who said they simply couldn’t afford that amount of money for just one act. It made me realise that this event had been curated for a very different audience, not that that is a problem, but the general crowd being mostly eager Loops enthusiasts (generally in the form of the sixteen year old girl), large and extended families armed with many a child, and groups who came to just lie on the grass drinking beer. Parklife, now sponsored by 94.7, has previously boasted crowd favourites like Desmond and the Tutus, Al Bairre, Shortstraw and Beatenberg, and international sensation Bombay Bicycle Club last year. This time the line-up was very different – with some of the most loved, commendable, and expected South African acts excluded from the list – like BLK JKS, Bye Beneco, The Plastics, and some of the aforementioned bands.
When I arrived, my first observation was that it did not seem like a music festival – but rather a family-friendly day in the park with some light entertainment. The attendees were very happy to lie under umbrellas on picnic-blankets, clearly very ambivalent to the acts on stage. This complacency surprised me at first, but as the day continued, I realised this seemed to be the intended vibe. But then why Modest Mouse? It seemed a very out of place act for family fun day. The event was run very seamlessly, and I enjoyed lazing about on the grass eating a Prego roll, but it felt a little like a musically curated disaster.
The electro-stage on the top field felt very unsuitable for a family friendly event – with PH Fat even abrasively shouting that, “All kids must fuck off.” He was still well received, as per usual, but his 2pm slot on a Sunday afternoon seemed quite incongruous with his bad-boy, rapper persona. French deep-house DJ Klingande, who would seem more at home at H2O, followed him with the in-house Truth DJ Vimo sealing the deal. While appreciated by the small and committed crowd, this stage was met with disinterest for the most part.
To be honest – no matter how well run this event was on the day, it was poorly orchestrated overall. They were clearly aiming for two very incompatible target markets – the alternative, indie rock fans and the happy families. Focusing more on the latter. The event would probably have been as popular and well attended whether Modest Mouse was coming or not, and I think a lot of Modest Mouse fans were very disappointed. (Not by Modest Mouse of course – but the event as a whole) I think the most telling sign was that Jeremy Loops had a bigger audience than Modest Mouse.
A prominent international act was seriously undervalued at this event and in my opinion, served a great injustice. In an ideal world, this event should have existed as two – a family friendly fun day where the masses are appeased with some happy-go-lucky indie pop and a more considered and musically experimental evening with Modest Mouse as the true focus.
With that all being said, the headlining act did not disappoint. Lead singer Isaac Brock joked with the audience and had a really inviting stage presence. They played crowd favourites, with a very excited albeit small audience, cheering enthusiastically. Their energy on stage was laudable, and very engaging – with various members of the band smiling and singing along. With a special shout out to Jim Fairchild for throwing back a fan’s bra (yes that happened).
Modest Mouse’s music is clean, seemingly simple considering how many members are actually in the band and easy to listen to. Even when they weren’t playing their very well-known songs, the audience was still dancing and attempting to sing along. As one of my teenage go to bands, it really was a great privilege and pleasure to see the great band in action. My only disappointment being they didn’t play my personal favourites – “Black Cadillacs”, “Missed the Boat” and “Dramamine”.