The night opened with fellow Portland band Hosannas. The band’s wry monotone jokes amused, but the set was generally unexciting. The duo is comprised of two undeniably good musicians, but their echo-y languor made for a somewhat stultifying stage show. Perhaps a little clarity in the sound (i.e., way less reverb) and an occasional change of pace would have livened things up a bit. Their track “When We Were Young,” however, is a gem, and showcases the members’ great voices.
Menomena opened with that particular brand of hipster awkwardness I can’t help but find endearing. After an extended and uncomfortable set-up time (for which they profusely apologized), drummer Danny Seim shared embarrassing anecdotes until we couldn’t help but like them again.
Once the actual music started, we were all weak in the knees over the foursome’s exuberant stage presence. Maybe it’s the departure of Brent Knopf and the addition of newcomers Paul Alcott and Matt Dabrowiak (keys and guitar, both of Dat’r) that has invigorated the band, but everyone onstage seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly. I couldn’t see Dabrowiak due to his placement towards the back of the stage, but his guitar fit solidly within the unearthliness that is Menomena. Alcott was great, both as a musician and spastic-fantastic dancer. His keyboard riffs are pointedly melodic, sharp and clear. His dancing? Let’s just say he can get away with it because of his sweet, sweet hair.
Original members Seim and Justin Harris were, of course, the musical powerhouses any fan of Menomena would expect. Seim’s drums are driving and syncopated. He’s one of the most original drummers I’ve seen live, and the goofy smile on his face as he watched his bandmates play makes me think maybe things are looking up for the band, personally. By the end of the set, his wispy shag ‘do was soaked and sweaty, a sure sign of true drummer greatness and assured groupie catnip. Harris, of course, is also a tremendous musician. His bass is strong and his baritone saxophone gritty and funky (a perfect example is the creepy “Five Little Rooms”). Harris mostly hangs out in the lower register of the horn, which is, I think, is where the bari is at its seductive best.
The set was a happy mix of new and old Menomena, from their opener “Strongest Man in the World” (off of 2003’s I Am the Fun Blame Monster!) to the more recent tracks. “Weird,” off of 2007’s Friend and Foe was an especially powerful (and disarmingly sexy) number. “Twenty Cell Revolt” and “The Late Great Libido” were more welcome blasts from the past, but tracks like “Queen Black Acid,” sweetly charming “Dirty Cartoons” and rollicking, macho “TAOS” show the band isn’t living in the past. Rumor has it a fifth album is already in the works. I can’t wait.
[P.S.- The image above is of the band's original lineup. Technical difficulties prevented your tireless reporter from posting Kilby concert images- but they weren't that good, anyway.]