Gig review: Menomena, Factory Theatre, 7/2/2011

Menomena

Menomena at Factory Theatre Pic: Sevana Ohandjanian

I’m going to be honest with you, there was a lot of man love in the room for Menomena. I’m talking the sort of dude on dude excitement that is as embarrassing as it is endearing. Not to suggest that women weren’t present, but there was a definite male admiration factor that had bromance written all over it.

The Portland band’s first visit to our shores has been riddled with obstacles; the loss of founding member Brent Knopf (awkwardly brought up during the show when an audience member’s constant irritating request for Evil Bee was put to rest when the band pointed out that it was a Knopf sung track), recruiting keyboardist Paul Alcott with minimal time on their hands, plus multi-instrumentalist Justin Harris experiencing the unpleasant aspects of international travel with a cold that somewhat hindered his vocal abilities.

Nonetheless, Harris was gregarious, if not overly apologetic for his ailing voice, and despite all of these mitigating factors, the foursome performed impeccably, gliding from thunderous noise with the lustful charge of TAOS to the understatedly gorgeous melodies of The Late Great Libido, the latter which they performed live for the first time in four years.

It’s impossible to express the scope of their musical capabilities and the expanses their songs traverse. In the space of ten minutes we could be taken from the slow build piano opening of Five Little Rooms and drummer Danny Seim’s emotive baritone, to an inordinate amount of saxophone courtesy Harris. The band played some self-professed ‘deep cuts’ but it was Friend And Foe favourites like opener Muscle N Flo and Weird that had the audience singing word for word. In the space of one song members would go through a conveyor belt of instruments, bizarre time signatures and key changes. It boggles the mind how they even remember parts of their own songs. How do they manage to harmonise so seamlessly whilst playing at least one instrument each simultaenously? For most of the show Harris was playing an instrument (saxophone or bass guitar, though a recorder made an appearance), singing lead or backup, and using LED pedals to create all sorts of effects. Similarly Seim was playing incredibly complex drum beats whilst singing.

A rapturous response had them appear for a brief two-song encore, the gruelling instrumental endlessness and vocal requirements taking their toll on Harris. Nonetheless they hit screeching euphoria with The Pelican, as the words of ‘Take it! When I’m not looking’ rang out over the crowd and brought the end to an evening of extraordinarily fantastic music, proving conclusively that no other band sounds remotely like Menomena.

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