It’s only the dream of most aspiring musicians, to form a successful band with their best friend and tour the world playing music they make and love. For Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald that’s pretty much how life went. American rock band, Modern Baseball, came to fruition about 6 years ago after the pair progressed from their acoustic duo to the rock quartet they now are, with the additions of Sean Huber on drums and Ian Farmer on bass. The band are no strangers to the UK, let alone the town of Southampton, having played The Joiners on a number of occasions already, but tonight showed the true stature and progression of the band, playing their headline show at the 1865 on their European and UK tour. It’s unfortunate, however, that Lukens was not there to join the rest of the band.
With great support from The Superweeks and Thin Lips, Modern Baseball entered the stage on a high. As mentioned, Lukens did not appear as it was announced shortly after that he hadn’t been joining the band on the tour due to health reasons. Despite this fact, the crowd were buzzing from the support acts, and this was only heightened by the excitement of seeing the headline act themselves.
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With a maximum capacity of 800 people, the 1865 was near enough sold out for the American rockers who took no time in jumping straight into their set with ‘Wedding Singer’ and ‘Note To Self’, followed by ‘Mass’ from their latest album, ‘Holy Ghost’. For those who’ve not heard it, this album is split in to half almost, with the first six songs written by Ewald referencing the death of his grandfather, and the last five written by Lukens, focusing on his struggles with depression . With this in mind, it therefore makes a little more sense to hear more of Ewalds’ songs on the set-list, purely for the reason of Lukens not being with the band on this tour. The music of Modern Baseball is hard to pinpoint exactly in to a certain genre. Hints of influences such as The Killers come through in some of the guitar riffs and vocals and with other songs, you’re taken aback with nostalgia of the indie rock/emo sounds of the 00’s, similar to those of Motion City Soundtrack and others alike.
Mid-set, things took a step back with a couple of acoustic songs, ‘Cooke’ and ‘Coals’, as well as a cover of The Weatherkens’ ‘Construction Site’, played and sung by Ewald. A nice break to catch a breath and cool down before the tempo rose once more for the last half of the set, starting perfectly as they meant to go on, playing the iconic sound of ‘The Weekend’ with it’s up-tempo sounds and ridiculously catchy chorus. The crowd screaming the lyrics back to the band and generating into a bit of a frenzy. The last few remaining songs included ‘Just Another Face’ and ‘Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind’. Two of the five songs written by Lukens off ‘Holy Ghost’. Chrissey Tashjian, lead singer of the Thin Lips, joined the band onstage to help out with vocals. Crowd surfers started to appear on top of the waves of hands. Their penultimate song was the very popular, ‘Your Graduation’. A member of the audience joined the band onstage to help sing, as well as a guy in a pikachu onesie who seemed to be part of the act. The room seemed to turn into what could only be imagined as something reminiscent of the house shows the Modern Baseball guys began playing all those years ago at the start of their career. Ending on a high, the night finished with a cover of The Killers’ classic, ‘When You Were Young’, with interludes of a number of thanks given from the band, reeled off by Farmer from what looked like a bit of cardboard with names written on it, on top of some mellow snippets of ska music.
The connection the band have with their fans, along with their slightly geeky personas, makes them even more lovable, and their passion for the music is inspiring. From a couple of high school friends who liked to play music together, to a group of very talented and successful musicians, Modern Baseball are consistently on the up, and their UK fan-base is growing by the day. The 1865 came alive with the full blown essence of indie/punk rock, and the people of Southampton, and the UK, without a doubt await the return of the lads from Philadelphia, and will welcome them back with open arms.