Live Review: Modern Baseball and Joyce Manor swing for the emo fences at the House of Blues

 
 

Baseball and rock and roll each are becoming more and more about bright young stars moving into the limelight. In Boston — both on the diamond at 4 Yawkey Way and the stage across Lansdowne Street from that famous baseball address — that notion has become more and more the story this summer.

Philadelphia-by-way-of-Maryland band Modern Baseball, and Southern California’s Joyce Manor each threw the concert equivalents of a perfect game last Thursday night (June 23) at the House of Blues, mere hours after a similarly young and energetic shortstop named Xander Bogaerts won an afternoon game for the local nine at Fenway Park.

The evening’s headliner, Modern Baseball, worked through a set that included a heavy emphasis on selections from their widely acclaimed new album, Holy Ghost, by starting things off with the album’s title track and “Wedding Singer.” The latter track includes a bright, shiny guitar riff throughout the song’s three-minute duration.

Holy Ghost is essentially two albums in one 27-minute sitting. The first half is under the ownership of guitarist and co-frontman Jake Ewald, and centers around his grandfather’s death, while the second half revolves around vocalist running mate Brendan Lukens’ mental health issues over the course of the last year. One of Ewald’s best compositions on the record is a short and sweet song titled “Mass.”, which bemoans being in a long-distance relationship and being on tour away from the person who perfectly plucks one’s heartstrings. At the first chorus lines of ‘My baby’s in Massachusetts,’ Ewald quickly remarked with a wry smile, “Hey, that’s here!”

Naturally, the crowd loved the small slice of local recognition and roared in mutual appreciation. Modern Baseball’s local ties don’t just stop there, as they’re signed to Boston label Run For Cover Records. At the House of Blues, they also tore into older material, much to the delight of the crowd. “Fine, Great” and “Your Graduation” from 2014’s You’re Gonna Miss It All, and “Tears over Beers” from their debut album Sports was just the auditory cue the crowd needed to bounce and pogo like popcorn kernels cooking in a microwave’s spin cycle.

Lukens’ half of Holy Ghost is headlined by album and pre-encore closer, “Just Another Face.” The song details Lukens’ feelings after what almost amounted to a post-tour suicide attempt spurred by depression, social anxiety, and drinking. “If it’s all the same, it’s time to confront this face to face,” he sang, with the Boston crowd proving more than adequate backups. “I’ll be with you the whole way, it’ll take time, that’s fact. I’m not just another face, I’m not just another name. Even if you can’t see it now, we’re proud of what’s to come, and you.”

Before Modern Baseball performed, Joyce Manor brought their own sound and fury, which effectively riled up the crowd. “Falling in Love Again”, “Schley”, and “Catalina Fight Song”, from 2014’s Never Hungover Again got the crowd-choir treatment, with screams and all. Joyce Manor’s set hit its pinnacle with a rousing rendition of “Constant Headache.” With a sing-along chorus and rhythms that set off a feverish wave of crowd-surfing and gave the mosh pit just the ignition it needed to swell and swirl in perfect time with the Golden State quartet. The band’s set also spans much of their career, but does so in Usain Bolt-like speed. The band played nearly 20 songs in just under an hour.

Thin Lips was the third band on the bill and was the perfect auditory appetizer for the night’s festivities. Led by frontwoman Chrissy Tashjian, the Philadelphia punk three-piece ran through their set with songs from their recently released album, Riff Hard.

Follow Greg Cameron on Twitter @Greg_Cameron.