Mogwai‘s stop in Salt Lake City was the unfortunate victim of circumstance in more ways than one. The cards were stacked against them from the get-go with a forced last minute venue change, which even under the best of circumstances is never a simple thing. But this venue change was particularly tough, because the show went from being held at SLC’s In The Venue, a decently sized, decently staffed venue, to The Avalon, the rather small armpit of SLC venues.
You see, Coheed and Cambria’s tour took them through Salt Lake this very same night, and they also booked In The Venue. Deciding that Coheed and Cambria would be a bigger profit for the venue (probably true, unfortunately), Mogwai got nabbed and ended up in a sticky, dimly lit, lousy-sounding converted movie theatre – The Avalon.
Perhaps the worst of all bad traits The Avalon has to offer is their ridiculous sound curfew. Being located directly behind a residential area, there is a strict 11 o’clock curfew, and as such, the band was forced to go on much earlier than usual and leave much earlier than the audience desired. Any show that is over by 10:30 is grossly substandard, but this one was the venue’s fault entirely. A band will show its true colors when faced with obstacles such as these, and these Scottish post-rock legends’ true colors are something to admire.
Mogwai took the stage to the sound of their latest album opener, “White Noise”, and joined in one by one on their respective instruments. The venue was dark, and little was done on the stage (they don’t call it shoegaze for nothing), but the music was so entrancing, it made up for any lack of flamboyancy. And the sound wasn’t the best quality (Avalon’s fault again), but once again, Mogwai’s true self shone through, great sound equipment or not.
They jumped right into the rest of their set, beginning with the popular “Hunted By A Freak”–much to the delight of the audience, who were really what kept a lot of the show going. The band, who have been at it since the mid-90s, stick to the traditional format of live rock and roll in every way. Their setlists are never the same, they feed off crowd interaction, and each song gets its due attention. But the most traditional move they made was waiting for the crowd to cheer before coming on for an encore. Planned encores are the status quo in this day and age, and some bands even forgo encoring at all. But true to their rock and roll selves, Mogwai didn’t retake the stage until the crowd begged them to, which made for an awkward 10 minutes of thumb twiddling but reminded us of how concerts are supposed to go. Encores shouldn’t be a guarantee. A fellow concertgoer mused, “Man, it’s been a while since I’ve had to work for an encore. Felt kind of nice.”
And it did. At a show that was listed to be all ages, the audience looked suspiciously 21+, which added immensely to the sort of classic post-rock sentimentalism that drove the show. As they ran through an incredibly eclectic set that included tracks from their latest album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, deep cuts (“Hasenheim”, “Helicon 1”), classics (“I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead”, “Hunted By a Freak”), and a very unexpected set closer, “Mogwai Fear Satan”, the attendees were highly receptive to each and every song, and when it came time to leave, one gutsy audience member screamed for them to “Just play all night!”
De facto band leader Stuart Braithwaite replied charmingly, “No, that would be boring. We’ll play 10-15 more minutes. And even that might be boring to some. You and I both know those types of people! Unbelievers!” Smile still intact, he cued the band to begin what was the most intense performance of the night, “You’re Lionel Richie”, (which will hopefully become a live staple in years to come) and went about finishing the job they had intended on doing: wowing SLC.
As the band thanked the audience and left the stage, many fans lingered behind to recount (in yelling conversations due to probable hearing loss) what they’d just undertaken. A legend had just graced the presence of our humble city, and though it may have escaped the grasp of the masses, those that knew their post-rock/shoegaze were humbled to no end by the gravity of the situation. Some of post-rock’s hardest-working pioneers had just blown the top off the shabbiest venue in Salt Lake City, but did it with class and tradition as only experts could.
Hunted By A Freak
Travel Is Dangerous
Mexican Grand Prix
How To Be A Werewolf
I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
You’re Lionel Richie
George Square Thatcher Death Party
Mogwai Fear Satan