Modern Baseball / Joyce Manor The Opera House, Toronto ON, June 19
Published Jun 20, 2016Modern Baseball's latest, Holy Ghost, showcased the dichotomy at the heart of the Philly band's songwriting. On one side is Jake Ewald's lonely alienation; on the other, Brendan Lukens' ragged nerve. On stage, however, the quartet, rounded out by bassist Ian Farmer and drummer Sean Huber, continue to present a united front, the emotions of one member seemingly speaking for the whole.
That's helped them resonate with a growing crowd (There were surprisingly few cheers from the crowd when Ewald asked who'd seen the band on previous stops through town) who are increasingly skewing young, based on the number of fists marked with black "Xs" that were continually thrust into the air during the band's Toronto stop last night (June 19).
These are fans who show up early, know every band on the bill and sing along to every song. The Opera House was already packed by the time California crew Joyce Manor hit the stage, as fans belted out lyrics, much to singer and guitarist Barry Johnson's delight. The group played a tight set, ripping through their short, garage-y punk anthems at a rapid clip, riling up the crowd for the headliners.
Modern Baseball took the stage to the album version of "Holy Ghost" before taking to their instruments for new tracks "The Wedding Singer" and "Note to Self." Ewald seemed taken aback by the crowd, who yelled each word back to him, then sang even louder for "Rock Bottom," from You're Gonna Miss It All.
For a group promoting a new record, particularly one that marks something of a shift in style and content, Modern Baseball were more than happy to dive into their back catalogue, pulling out fan-favourites "Tear Over Beers" and "The Weekend" early in their set (though last year's stellar The Perfect Cast EP was woefully underrepresented). Their earlier material's simple arrangements did clash slightly with the more raw maturity of tracks from Holy Ghost. But enthusiasm from both the band, who used these songs' instrumental breaks to jam out and goof off to one another, and the crowd, who remained singing along, was the glue holding the two halves together.
The main set ended with Lukens' excellent "Just Another Face" before the band exited for a quick break. They returned for "Your Graduation," during which Huber was relieved of drum duties — two unnamed dudes took over on drums and bass — to sing the song's bridge, wading out into the crowd for its final, cathartic chorus.