Menomena. Friday, June 22, at the Bottleneck
By Richard Gintowt
It's been awhile since I got really excited about a show. Maybe it's just bad luck, but most of the bands I've been digging lately -- Field Music, Crystal Skulls, Chromeo, Mice Parade, Rotary Downs, Voxtrot -- haven't ventured anywhere near the area. That's not to slight the fine folks bringing shows to Kansas City and Lawrence, but more and more it seems exceptional when I get amped up for a national act like Menomona.
Needless to say, I had high expectations for the Seattle band's show at the Bottleneck on Friday night. I've been digging the band's latest LP Friend and Foe, which reminds me of what Captain Beefheart would sound like if I actually liked Captain Beefheart. I was eager to see how the band's many nuances would translate live, and the multi-tasking trio proved to be up to the challenge.
Menomena wouldn't refuse a doggy a sandwich, nor Lawrence a good show. Photo by Pavlina.
Swinging high sticks like Keith Moon, drummer Danny Seim navigated in and out of fractured time signatures with ease and kept the audience enrapt. Justin Harris seamlessly shifted between bass, guitar and saxophone, while keyboardist Brent Knopf packed a sampler, laptop and mean glock (enspiel, that is). The band occasionally played with the aid of backing tracks, but none of the spontaneity was lost thanks to the wild-child drums and manic saxophone bursts.
Friend and Foe is said to be the group's poppiest effort to date, and the half-packed house repaid the favor with enthusiastic responses to new tracks like "Muscle 'N Flow" and "Weird". Some of the older material appeared lost on the newbies, but it served as a reminder of the strides the band has made integrating pop hooks into its experimental voodoo.
The band's intense enthusiasm overwhelmed any shortcomings attributable to having only six hands onstage. The show seemed to gain momentum as it progressed, and by the time it was over an encore seemed supererogatory (a quick switch to blaring Led Zeppelin erased any suspense on that end). All things considered, Menomena proved equally as entertaining as their fellow Barsuk Records bands (Death Cab for Cutie, The Long Winters, Nada Surf) and every bit as motivated as their absorbing records suggest.
On MySpace: www.myspace.com/menomena
On YouTube: "Wet and Rusting"