We Went There: Mogwai at First Avenue

Mogwai @ First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN – December 1st, 2017

We all know what it is like for certain genres to age and enter the less exciting years of their existence. Rock becomes lumbering and better fitted in sports stadiums than youthful rebellion. Glam becomes sadly preening and saggy. Metal trades in long hair and swagger for bald spots and state fairs. And so on and so on. But what about a genre like post rock, which didn’t ever have a particular edgy or youthful appeal? If something starts out as serious and deliberate — two traits that are frankly even more prevalent as we march closer to death — does it age more gracefully?

For some reason these questions bounced in my head as Scottish post rock legends Mogwai commanded the stage at First Ave in Minneapolis on Friday evening. The band have always practiced an understated opulence, and they have been on a pretty solid two decade run of making (mostly) instrumental music that swells and crashes in ways that make their music more dynamic than most bands who have vocals at their disposal. Grabbing from various points of their extensive back catalog, the band played music off their two 2017 albums mixed with their “hits,” keeping the mostly full crowd enraptured through their headlining set. Unlike other post rock bands I’ve seen, they didn’t attempt to deafen the crowd with roars of feedback (although it was plenty loud), instead utilizing their master touch of changing dynamics, along with an understated light show, towards a powerful, engaging set.

So to the opening question: does post rock age better? I’d say, narrowly focused on Mogwai’s show at First Ave near the end of 2017, yes it does. The music sounded both weathered and neatly defined within the somewhat tired definition of what we know “post rock” to be, but it hasn’t lost its luster because it wasn’t based on a burning flame that isn’t sustainable but instead a simmering boil that has a much longer shelf life. I’m not sure if this theory will hold up next time (I’m looking at you, Godspeed You! Black Emperor early next year), but it certainly was the case with Mogwai at First Ave.

Opening the show was electronic artist Xander Harris. I really enjoy his recording and love throwing the LPs I own of his on my record player, but it felt a bit strange to have dark electronic music opening the set, and it seemed by the crowds reaction that there was a bit of confusion why a guy behind a synth rig was opening the show. It was a good set, but it felt a bit like an odd marriage.

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