Modern Baseball / Zzzounds
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney 07/04/2016
Review: Matt Doria | Photos: Robert Birchall
The atmosphere kicking in the Oxford Art Factory is seeping out into the streets. The kebab shop next door is being drowned out by our Violent Soho sing-along, and the matinee’s capacity is quickly wearing thin as punters shuffle inside like human tic tacs. Seven months ago, Modern Baseball pulled the pin on their debut Australian voyage at the hand of frontman Brendan Lukens‘ mental health. Tonight, they’re rebooted, rejuvenated and ready to hit the stage once more, and as such, the room is flooding with excitement. We scope the merch desk, greet old mates, and sink our teeth into straws on some of Sydney’s best cocktails (our bev of choice is the Eazy-E, which tastes like cherry cola and impending regrets). It’s gonna be a grouse time!
For all intents and purposes, there’s no legitimate need for an opening act – fans have had tonight in mind for two days shy of an entire year, and before the venue doors were even opened, hype was at an all-time high. Zzzounds – the solo project of BLUNT alumnus and local legend Dave Drayton – takes to the stage in defiance of such, and promptly knocks us off our feet. Sloshing self-satirical bedroom musings with the mellow twangs of an open-tuned electric, Drayton rolls through his thirty-minute set with an obscene amount of serenity. Still, he maintains the energy bubbling up to the night’s headline act. Tongue-in-cheek trailblazers like “Centrelinkin Park” garner equal hordes of belly laughs and bobbing heads, and a shaky start with an impersonal audience quickly swerves into a sea of new fans, stargazed and speechless by the fifteen-minute mark.
If there are sadists in the building, the twenty minutes that follow would make even the most immoral of them writhe. With every minute that passes, another Soho jam bellows out of the speakers, another dash of bitters is poured into an Eazy-E, and another twitch races through our hands. We can almost taste those bassy opening strums of “Broken Cash Machine”; we can almost feel the inevitable shoeys. As we edge closer to 10pm, paranoia convinces us that a last-minute cancellation is imminent – that is until the lights dim one final time, and four of the nerdiest punks you’ll ever see shuffle timidly out onstage. Fuck. It’s showtime.
You know that one scene in The Lion King (spoiler alert), where Mufasa gets all but annihilated by the stampede? That’s what it feels like standing in the front of house when Modern Baseball open on “Fine, Great”. Fists pump and bodies fly as the Philly quartet power through the first half of their set – “Rock Bottom” reigns in all of its fan-favourite grooviness, “Going To Bed Now” brews good vibes faster than a uni student brews anxiety, and “Alpha Kappa Fall Of Troy The Movie Part Deux” proves a favourite for crowd surfers. “Tears Over Beers” quickly establishes itself as the most chantable cut of the night, the frat-bellowed “OH, COME ON!” bouncing off the walls long after the foursome ease into “Apartment”.
Dorky smiles plastered on their faces for every second of their hour onstage, Modern Baseball relish in the exhilaration booming from their devotees. Lukens is especially astonished by the commotion, excitedly laughing “this is fucked!” every two or three songs. Their welcome Down Under is an undoubtedly rapturous one, cultural barriers only risen when our indie-rock icons are presented with the concept of… The shoey. “We’re not drinking out of a shoe!!” exhorts guitarist Jake Ewald after a solid ten minutes of collective pleading; the tone in his voice is hilariously disgusted, but it’s nothing compared to Lukens’ face when one brave punter shows ’em how it’s done. Regardless of their willingness to smash a Pistonhead out of a sweaty Converse, the band warm up to their 500 new best mates almost immediately.
The rest of the set shutters by in a cheesy montage from an ’80s teen movie, complete with all of the earnestly awkward, coming-of-age spirit. Recent singles from Holy Ghost – the band’s upcoming third LP – “Everyday” and “Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind” go off without a hitch, backers screaming along to every word as if they’d had years to practise. “The Thrash Particle” is perfectly reflected in its namesake by the crowd, and “Your Graduation” is a rewarding end to a night filled exclusively with rewards. It’s an epic closing salvo of “The Weekend”, however, that truly induces hysteria to the point where it feels totally bittersweet.
Our voices are nonexistent. We’re the kings and queens of sweat. After stumbling into the aforementioned the kebab shop for a cheeky post-gig HSP and unofficially adopting a homeless cattle dog (it was SO cute fam), a thought hits us – this is the only time Sydney will ever see a Modern Baseball show of this scale. If the endless radioplay “Apple Cider” is getting currently serves as any indication, Holy Ghost is going to shoot these guys into the stratosphere. If not before the end of the year, it won’t be too long before we’re watching “Mass” tear the barriers apart at The Metro – and oh, how stoked we are!
Also, a sidenote: Ian Farmer (bass) fucking slays the Hawaiian shirt aesthetic. Good times.