99X’s Mistle Toe Jam heats up the holidays

The year 2007 has come and gone, but it hasn’t been 2008 long enough to forget some of the things that brought us pleasure prior to the close of the year. Chief among those was the last major concert of the year, 99X’s Mistletoe Jam (MTJ). The concert was held at the Arena at Gwinnet Center, which given the sellout crowd was probably the best place to hold it. This year the marquee listed the Silversun Pickups, The Shins, Silverchair and the headliner, Modest Mouse.

Overall MTJ was an amazing experience. The four bands played a wide assortment of songs and ran the gamut as far as tastes and influences are concerned. Moreover, the showmanship of the performers was top notch and, even though the entire night ended on a low note, the individual performances made the concert worth the price of admission.

Silversun Pickups

On stage were the Silversun Pickups playing the song “Melatonin” off of their first full length album, Carnavas, released on July 26. Their set consisted of songs from their latest release. The LA-based indie-rock band played their two mainstream hits “Well Thought Out Twinkles” and “Lazy Eye” consecutively, adding an interesting transition riff in between. As an opening act the Silversun Pickups did a fantastic job of charging the room with energy. Their tempered sound and patience really drew the listener into the experience. Further adding to this energy was the moment that lead vocalist and guitarist Brian Aubert left the band to jam and walked around the pit with his guitar before rejoining the band on stage. Overall, the band is one of the best new opening acts I have seen. Their sound imparted an almost sweet taste as they left the stage. Their quiet demeanor and intense focus was something that translated perfectly from their album to the stage that night.

The Shins

When The Shins took the stage there was a lot of cheering from the upper sections and floor. The band opened with the track “Turn on Me” and then proceeded through the rest of their nine song set. The set also included their hit “Sea Legs” as well as “Phantom Limb.” Admittedly, I was not a fan of the Shins before this concert and did not know what to expect from the Portland-based indie rockers. I am glad to say that the show the Shins put on that night was amazing. Their setlist was well arranged and their tracks sounded great. Each track was the perfect blend of acoustic, folk and electronic elements which helped to set them apart from the other bands present. After hearing them live it is unfortunate that their music does not get as much air play on the radio as the other bands at MTJ. It almost makes me want to request their songs on the radio more often (assuming I could get through to make the request).

Silverchair

As Silverchair took the stage it became evident that this was the band that the crowd had really come to see. The group made their debut in Australia in 1992.

Since then the band has broken several Australian recording industry records in terms of both rankings and sales. In fact, every album by Silverchair has had one single that has debuted at number one on the Australian singles charts. They have also sold over six million albums worldwide. By this point the arena was filled to capacity as Silverchair showed off their assortment of electronic distortion equipment, which sat in front of the newly painted drum kit in recognition of the release of their new album, Young Modern. The crowd cheered as Silverchair transitioned into their song “Israel’s Song” off of their Frogstomp album. Silverchair blew the lid off of MTJ, getting the crowd to sing along and stomp their feet to every beat. This massive surge in the intensity and energy came to a head when lead singer Daniel Johns said, “If you want to make some money, you should take off your clothes,” shortly before a bra was thrown on stage. Subsequently, Johns picked up the bra and put it on for the duration of the performance. Other tracks that were played included “Ana’s Song (Open Fire)” and their new single “Straight Lines.” In retrospect Silverchair was the best performance of the night. The band played a range of old favorites as well as new material.

Modest Mouse

Last but not least came Modest Mouse, a Washington-based band that has grown in popularity substantially since the release of their album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. However, this buzz seemed to disappear when lead singer Isaac Brock stated that he currently had a cold and that it was affecting his singing. The album in question has generated an enormous amount of buzz for two main reasons. First, it is the first album to feature former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, who worked with Brock to write the songs. Secondly, the album is the first one made by the band that reached number one on the Billboard rock charts. The band played a setlist spanning their entire catalog of tracks. Some of their tracks included “Float On,” “We’ve Got Everything,” “Fire It Up” and their number one single “Dashboard.”

While I like Modest Mouse, in retrospect it seemed as though the band steamrolled through their set. It was as though they wanted to get off stage as quickly as possible.

This became more evident when the band, despite cheering and chanting from the audience, refused to come back out for an encore.

The resulting “boo” from the crowd as the house lights went up seemed to be the low point of the entire concert.

Despite that Modest Mouse performed well, though, it lacked much of the stage presence for which they are typically known.