LIVE: Modern Baseball @ O2 Kentish Town Forum, London

By Ashwin Bhandari

The nerdy Run For Cover heartthrobs have a loving relationship with the UK. ¬†Every time they come over it seems that more and more fans from all kinds of backgrounds come to shows and end up thriving off their unique energy. Since 2015 however, they’ve forced themselves to mature and channel the negativity from their personal lives straight back into songwriting.

This might not be much of a surprise given the nature of emo music, with a tendency for lyrics to come across as so overdramatic that the integrity of personal struggles becomes almost humorous. However with co frontman Brendan Lukens cancelling on not only this tour but also a Reading & Leeds slot prior to the release of ‘Holy Ghost’, it’s very clear that dealing with mental health issues has come first before touring.

With that being said, The o2 Kentish Town Forum is rammed with fans.  It might not have the charm or comradery of tiny independent venues, but with this many people dying to catch Modern Baseball it would be silly not to hold their headline London show at a 2,300 club venue.

Following some fun loving japes and hi-jinx with openers The Superweaks, Thin Lips arrive defiant and ready to smash out LGBT hatred like never before. The riff hungry audience is attentive to Thin Lips’s ear candy choruses which sound vast and vibrant on such a big stage compared to what they’ve been used to thus far over here. Songs like “Never Again” and “I Wonder” are of course the highlights of their set, but even those unfamiliar with Thin Lips would find it hard not to head bob along. ¬†Brimming with charm and risk taking instrumentation, there’s very little t0 criticise about the Philly indie rockers, other than how incredibly underrated they are.

Draping a giant Holy Ghost flag behind them, there’s a feeling of intrigue and child like giddiness of what the band will do without Lukens before Modern Baseball are welcomed on stage to deafening cheers and applause. ¬†Opening with ‘Wedding Singer’, co frontman and guitarist Jake Ewald can’t stop grinning as the room explodes with excitement. The first half of the set is comprised of ¬†Ewald’s side of ‘Holy Ghost’, mostly talking about how he dealt with the loss of his grandfather not too long ago. ¬†Of course, ‘Apartment’ and ‘Tears Over Beers’ are still thrown into the mix early on, with the line “aw come on” being shouted back ¬†never loses its charm when sung surrounded by mates. ¬†Bassist Ian Farmer and Ewald’s electric on stage chemistry is hilarious as it is satisfying to see them fill the massive stage space with such youthful energy.

After the first half is all done and dusted, Farmer, Sean Huber and members of Thin Lips/Superweaks depart and let Ewald take the stage for a couple of solo renditions of MoBo anthems. ¬†‘Cooke’ and ‘Coals’ are very minimal tracks by nature, and so it only makes sense to hear them in a more stripped back and raw fashion. “Thanks for being so understanding with everything going on with us”, Ewald says, before the rest of the band come up for round two.

“We’re gonna play some Brendan songs if that’s okay with you?” The response is a resounding yes, even bringing on two fans from the audience to sing ‘The Weekend.’ ¬†Chris Diehm of Thin Lips comes out to sing ‘Rock Bottom’, rocking out like a dad at his son’s secondary school music performance and loving every single second of it.

The night takes a sombre turn as Chrissy Tashjian of Thin Lips returns to sing ‘Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind’ and ‘Just Another Face’. Anyone who’s seen the delightful mini documentary ‘Tripping In The Dark’ that Run For Cover released last year knows the sort of mindset Brendan had while writing these tracks. Thankfully Tashjian does an amazing job of belting them out and retaining the melancholic weight of them.

The party atmosphere returns for ‘Your Graduation’ where the majority of all 3 Philly bands are on stage having the absolute time of their lives. ¬†Their end set cover of ‘When You Were Young’ by The Killers in tribute of “the best band in the world” is a delightful way to finish a career defining show.

Ultimately tonight is a triumphant celebration of finding the light in times of darkness. Modern Baseball have transcended from being “that emo revival band” from the states and become an extended family where everyone is welcome to join. The bottom line is the band made the best out of a difficult situation and brought over an inclusive experience to our shores and we will be grateful for when the whole gang gets back together again.