Even though Modern Baseball made a name for themselves with raw, uncomfortably honest, yet catchy pop-punk, they’ve always been goofy guys. Watch any interview the quartet provides with each other, and they’re always messing around. This screw-around attitude does not draw a line in their interviews. They’ve never been shy about messing around onstage and cracking jokes. Despite some dark times and no-bullshit relatable lyrics, it’s no surprise that the band’s penultimate “last show for the foreseeable future” show at Union Transfer on October 13 was not some gut-wrenching sobfest. It was a night of strong emotional performances and a good handful of laughs to be had.
Coming in just before The Obsessives went on stage, it was apparent how much this show meant to so many people. The floor was flooded with fans relatively early. The Obsessives set was good. They are always a solid opener, providing people like myself with a fun cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” Even if you don’t like them, The Obsessives throw so much into their performance that it’s impossible to lose interest.
The Modern Baseball guys could’ve easily gone all out for these shows. Instead, they opted to display both the stage banners they’ve had through their career, and they walked out onstage to tune their instruments. The lights went down just as they finished and they approached the front of the stage. No “Holy Ghost,” no frills, no grand entrance. It reminded me of the first time I saw them in the Marlin Room at Webster Hall, a 600-capacity room, half the size of Union Transfer. It’s only suiting that they opened the show by playing their debut Sports in full. While “Tears over Beers” is a constant staple of their setlist, it was truly mesmerizing to see them playing “Coals” live for the first time or recapture the magic of the first time seeing them play “See Ya, Sucker,” with a new meaning two years later. Even during Bren Lukens and Jake Ewald’s acoustic songs, drummer Sean Huber and Bassist Ian Farmer stayed onstage, admiring their friends’ early work.
The second half of the show consisted of hits from You’re Gonna Miss It All and Holy Ghost. The band was finely tuned through the songs that had dominated their setlists through their more recent shows. Ewald handled a large portion of the vocals in the latter half of the set, and even though these are staples, he seemed truly energized playing the Miss It All stand out “Broken Cash Machine.” Ewald even cracked a joke about playing the song out of tune the night before. Lukens seems to still be finding meaning in his songs, as the sweaty mob of the moshpit started to pogo for “Fine, Great.”
Most of MoBo’s recent shows usually reach a climax around “Just Another Face,” and this was no different. As Lukens began, “I’m a waste of time and space,” I started to cry like a baby. Full-on ugly cry. As the de-facto spokesperson on mental health within this scene, this song always felt communal in live settings. Us, the supporting fanbase, showing Lukens that we’re happy of how far he’s come, and him, the relatable frontman, telling the mentally-ill fans, “I’ll be with you the whole way.” On Saturday, it seemed to take on both of those meanings multiplied by a thousand. Being that this would be the last time I’d see this band that had defined my young-adulthood, it seemed right to cry.
The tears didn’t last long though. As the song finished, Ewald announced, “Alright, guys, we’ve got two more.” Farmer interrupted to say, “Wait, Jake. Look at the setlist again. We have several more songs,” with a knowing laugh. As a concertgoer who’s never satiated, several more sounded a lot better than two more. Ewald began “Hiding,” and all seemed normally. Lukens immediately launched into the megahit “Your Graduation.” The crowd, expectedly, went nuts. Once the instrumental bridge came, Lukens yelled, “Here’s Ian, with the bass solo.” Everyone laughed onstage and off. Right as the crowd finished singing, “Go ahead and walk away,” Lukens called, “Bullshit, you fucking miss me…” They played the song through again. Ewald seemed giddy with laughter. The crowd, impressively, gave their all again. The band finished, walked offstage, and the “One More Song” chant came.
Upon re-entering the stage, Lukens said, “One more.” They launched into a third “Your Graduation,” which Farmer replied with a “This song is really long.” For one more time that night, the audience went nuts. While it was obviously supposed to be a funny gimmick, it was a fitting last MoBo show, because it mirrored what it felt like to first hear “Your Graduation” and immediately play it on repeat. Modern Baseball went out on the right note, but they left us with so many songs to play many more than three times over and over again.