Eugene was exposed to a gale-force show of extreme performances on Wednesday night at the Cuthbert Amphitheater, provided by two of Portland’s weirdest exports: Mattress and Modest Mouse.
An exquisite Modest Mouse show was preceded by the enigmatic personality of Rex Marshall, who goes by the stage name Mattress.
Marshall wore a glamorous, reflective gold suit and strutted around with the unflappable confidence of a day-drunk lounge lizard. His style, suspended somewhere between Tom Jones and Future Islands, is defined by the bruising bass synths from his cued-up tracks and his dulcet baritone singing endless, non-sequitur refrains. His stage banter included some exaggerated throat clearing and rhetorical takes like, “How’s my hair?”
As he sang the titular hook from “Fuck the Future,” the second track from his 2016 album “Looking For My People,” he repeated himself interminably and languidly before he paused as if he had forgotten something, and added one last time, “Oh… and fuck the future!”
The increasingly suffocating sounds of bees swarming marked the beginning of Modest Mouse’s set. The band, composed of Isaac Brock and a six-person ensemble, opened with “The World At Large,” the opening cut from 2004’s “Good News For People Who Love Bad News.” Although many of the tracks were not too different from their studio versions, “World” culminated in a lovely electric piano solo, punctuated by Brock’s stabbing guitar, filtered to sound like radio static.
But the infectious indie hits like “Float On” or “Dashboard” — with their peppy, hi-hat-bouncing hooks — were counterbalanced by headier garage-rock (and sometimes borderline nu-metal) renditions of “Dramamine,” which escalated into a prolonged, epic jam, “Doin’ The Cockroach” and “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes.”
In “Tiny Cities,” Brock gnawed on the guitar strings. He thrashed the instrument around and strangled its neck; it almost looked as if he were about to assault an audience member with it. This level of energy and vitriol is rare in a band that’s been around for more than two decades. I mean, really, this degree of violence is usually only reserved for politicians from Montana with a grudge against Guardian reporters.
The setlist demonstrated the versatility of the multi-instrumentalists in the group, especially Tom Peloso, who interchangeably played the upright bass, keyboards, fiddle, bass guitar and horn; and guitarist Jim Fairchild, whose strained, piercing voice backed up Brock on “Bukowski.”
A former Cottage Grove resident, Brock struggled with his stage banter and speaking as a normal human adult.
“It’s nice to be here,” he said, and added cryptically: “It’s nicer to not be elsewhere.”
Later, he offered this: “How’s the internet? Still plugging along? Just keep putting coins in it.”
And later still, he asked, “Anyone about to graduate or somethin’? … Nice one.” He offered some solace to those who aren’t; he rambled semi-coherently: “Anyone livin’ on someone’s couch? Nice one. I believe they call that the College of Hard Knocks. No matter how much you’re fucking up, good on ya!”
Follow Emerson on Twitter: @allmalone.