Last weekend, Philadelphia’s beloved Modern Baseball played three sold-out shows at Union Transfer, a gorgeous 1200-capacity room in the North region of the city. The venue used to be an old trolley barn, leaving its walls and ceilings with much reclaimed wood, an aesthetically pleasing concert hall of impressive acoustics, a sense of power and purpose. While venues continue to shutter with increasing speed, non-studio music spaces that feel alive are increasingly rare to come by — at Union Transfer, there’s magic in the walls, amplified by those who perform there, leaving with it a piece of their own. Modern Baseball (MoBo to the loyal) chose to perform three back-to-back nights at UT, Philly’s favorite emo band where the three-letter word is used loosely and lovingly, to essentially say goodbye, not to the room but to the people standing in it, and to themselves.
To my knowledge, no one in Modern Baseball has publicly remarked that this is the end of their tenure. No media outlet has announced with definitive assurance that those 3000+ friends, fans and family in the room those three nights saw the end of a very personal and beautiful story, but it certainly felt definitive — the gigs arrived as a surprise after months of canceled tours and an indefinite hiatus — though those two soul-crushing words were never used, they’re not far removed. I entered MoBo’s Union Transfer Saturday and Sunday night and it felt like closure for a particularly wondrous and pure entity, short-lived but satiating.
The ugly truth for fans but necessary reality for all artists is dissolution: good things end, and with music, the expiration date is often more obvious than other creative endeavors. There’s burning out or fading quietly, and the latter is unsettling, a forced continuation of something that perhaps only needed to be in the world, actively, for a limited amount of time. The promise of records is that they are real tracks, documentation to be discovered and rediscovered forever. As long as there is interest in them, records live on. I, like thousands of others, walked into the venue with limited expectation, but realizing that if this is the last time, it’ll be a beautiful time. They didn’t disappoint. There was no danger of that.