When the band had a difficult time getting started on “BOTE,” Harris joked that the crowd could boo, but only if they did it on tempo.
Photos: Kelly Glueck
Gargoyle, St. Louis
It was a Thursday night and the doors of the Gargoyle had not opened yet, but already there were over 40 people in line trying to get the remaining 25 tickets to see the Portland based band Menomena and their math rock openers Maps and Atlases.
After a series of patient fans were quickly turned away, Maps and Atlases promptly began at nine. This was Maps and Atlases’ fourth show on their tour with looping virtuosos Menomena. Dave Davison’s quirky, but solid vocal scales melded well with the radiant energy of the rest of the band to create a clean, modular sound. It made for a pleasant surprise to those unfamiliar with their material.
Pumped from Maps and Atlases’ upbeat set, a young girl in the front insisted that anyone within earshot “better dance when Menomena comes on.” However, the eerie 7/8 key change in their opening song “The Strongest Man in the World,” from their debut album I Am the Fun Blame Monster,made for a jarring transition from Maps and Atlases’ cheery and familiar 4/4 time. This left the dance-y bunch in the front struggling to adapt to the delayed changes in tempo.
Menomena is known for their intricate timing and instrumental layering. These signature techniques were demonstrated through their impressive performances of “Tithe” and “Five Little Rooms.” Singer and multi-instrumentalist Justin Harris showed off his tap-dancing skills with both feet frolicking from pedal to pedal on his Moog foot synthesizer—meanwhile, carefully rotating between guitar, recorder, and saxophone.
This instrumental juggle and loop synchronization required a lot of attention both during the songs and in their preparations. When the band had a difficult time getting started on “BOTE,” Harris joked that the crowd could boo, but only if they did it on tempo. A few anxious members in the crowd did begin to boo (though on tempo), but they were quickly drowned out by clapping in 7/8 time.
“BOTE” was well worth the second attempt as touring guitarist Joe Haege’s (Tu Fawning, 31 Knots) fill-in Matt Dabrowiak took the energy to a new level with his shrieking slide guitar. Meanwhile, keyboardist Paul Alcott’s dance moves helped the audience forget the void left by Brent Knopf.
Early this year, vocalist and keyboardist Knopf departed from Menomena, hoping to pursue a side project called Ramona Falls. Knopf’s timing couldn’t have been worse. Menomena had just gotten back from a European tour and already had two or three more tours planned. However, the fusion of the remaining members of Menomena and most of Lackthereof (Menomena drummer Danny Seim’s side project, also featuring Alcott and Dabrowiak) seemed to do the band justice.
While Knopf did bring a lighter, poppy feeling to the band, Menomena proved that the show can go on and that they are dedicated to their music and supporters. After a resonating performance of the crowd favorite “Rotten Hell,” the band left the stage. The crowd continued on with their applause, anticipating an encore. After a solid five minutes of clapping and hollering, the crowd became restless. Menomena apprehensively approached the stage looking tired and unsure whether they should go on, but finally they did. They played an energetic “Pelican,” leaving their fans satisfied. | Kelly Glueck