Modern Radio 10th Anniversary at Cedar Cultural Center

Jeff Allen of The Plastic Constellations - Photo by Alexa Jones

You sure can’t say the local music scene doesn’t ever do us any favors. To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Modern Radio pulled out all the stops with a pair of shows at the Turf Club and the Cedar over the weekend. For Saturday’s show at the Cedar, label owners Tom Loftus and Peter Mielech offered deals on vinyl, vintage posters, and lots of other memorabilia; they even brought everyone cupcakes, thoughtful boys that they are.

Oh, right, and there was over four hours of live music. The music got started around 5:30 with Bob Adams playing emcee and doing his best to be a comedian. “It’s DIY humor,” Stnnng’s Chris Besinger later remarked, “which means it’s not funny.” Fortunately, Besinger seemed to be in the minority on that front.

Vampire Hands, the first band to go on, were also considerably less hostile than the label’s resident provocateur. In fact, their set – the shortest of the night – was pretty laid back, the bearded trio playing their cool psych pop without many asides. Chris Beirden took most of the vocals, standing on tip toes to reach the highest notes of his tenor. The trio picked up the pace for the second half, Alex Rose’s drumming in particular getting busier while John Rose leaned on his effects pedals.

Pacing was a complete nonfactor for Stnnng, who Adams introduced as “Cowboy Beardslington and the Tall Guys.” They played flat out as usual, Besinger assuming his role as demented front man in a Hawaiian shirt, although this time he was without leather gloves. Whether he was shouting about the Howling Man or riffing on “I Want to Take You Higher,” Besinger continually throttled the mic stand, spitting huge gobs, running into the audience, and hurling out insults.

Almost inevitably, Besinger finished things off by pronouncing his affinity for werewolves. “I can relate to those guys,” he explained. “Not like those untrustworthy vampires.”

Adams didn’t seem to be able to think of anything funny to say about Skoal Kodiak, so he instead gushed on about Tom and Peter for a few minutes. The band returned the favor by playing a ten-minute Moog spaceflight with the house lights turned off. Then they launched into the crunching assault of their futuristic robo funk in full force, continuing on in the dark while Markus Lunkenheimer let out his guttural growls and added in the mandatory bleach bottle screeches. It was all pretty entertaining and proved a good segue to the last act, but audience reactions seemed a little mixed, some people taking the opportunity to mosh and dance while others made trips to the bar.

The big event of the night, though, was bound to be the reunion of the Plastic Constellations, who played their first show together in almost two years. You’d never know they’d been away based on the performance they put on, sounding incredibly well-rehearsed and playing with all the exuberance of a band that just landed its first major gig. Running through a number of songs from swansong We Appreciate You, Jeff Allen and Adam Mader traded vocals and locked into soaring guitar duals on the likes of “Stay That Way” and “Sancho Panza.”

Everyone in the band clearly enjoyed themselves, and with their chanting, sing-along choruses, they were just begging the audience to join in the fun – which the crowd duly did amidst a flurry of fist pumps. It was the type of moment that seemed to encapsulate the sense of community that Modern Radio has come to stand for over the years.

Before the Constellations started their encore, Allen announced a surprisingly generous “offer” from Loftus. “Tom is inviting everyone in this room to come back to his place for a party! And the beer is on him,” he said.

“You have to bring your own Gardetto’s, though,” Allen added. “And drugs.” Well, there had to be a catch sooner or later.

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