Friday, September 28, 2012

Menomena Triumphant at El Rey - Sept. 27, 2012

I just got home from the Menomena show at El Rey and I am completely bedazzled (12:30 AM). I am not surprised because they had the same impact on me when I saw them for the first time at The Troubadour back in 2007. The originality, the creativity, the love of what they're doing, is so completely infectious, you feel a part of the creative process as you watch them. What a gift for an audience. This was the fourth time I've seen them, and I think it was the best of all.

I'd heard how the one of the original three members, Brent Knopf,  had decided to split amicably after the release and tour of Mines (September 16,2010 at El Rey) in January 2011 to focus on his own music in Ramona Falls. This prompted Justin Haris and Danny Seim to commit to continuing forward with the band and record their fourth album, Moms, which was released on September 18, 2012. Recruiting other musicians from the Portland Oregon area, the album was put together the same way their others took shape, with each artist adding his own contribution separately and the final mix being composed in a computer program they affectionately call Deeler.

What they create is a music with no specific genre, it's a stew consisting of indie, jazz, classical, dance music, and a few other things I can't think of. And I love it. Moms may be their finest achievement yet, and hearing the songs live only makes that argument stronger. They've outdone themselves lyrically this time, with the same brainy intelligence they always display but now with more personal and even haunting observations on life.

I was startled when five musicians strode out on stage because I thought they'd be down to two performers and a lot of looping pedals and prerecorded samples. And I'd seen them as three before, and more at El Rey in 2010, which I recall was a surprisingly lackluster show which made me wonder. They kicked off with an arrangement of "Muscle 'n Flo" from Friend and Foe that had to be retooled for the new mix of instruments, which included two (!) keyboards, bass, drums and Justin Harris trading off on guitar and baritone saxophone. At first it sounded a little unfocused and I feared for the new band make-up.

Once they played the amazing song "Plumage" which launches their new album, I relaxed as the perfect mix of voices and instruments reached peaks I'd never heard before from Menomena.The concert took off from there and I was elevated to somewhere near the ceiling for the duration of their show. It was sublime and yet only played to an El Rey that was only three quarters full. Where were the people! Everyone I know should have been there because this was one of the best sets of the year.

They ended up playing all but two songs from Moms, and I could not have been more pleased because in the less than two weeks I've had the album it has made an indelible impression on me and represents a giant leap forward in their songwriting and now in their performance skills. Throwing in songs like ""Rotten Hell" from Friend and Foe and "Queen Black Acid" from Mines made a wonderfully diverse program and each band member shined. I love that they all sing. I left the theatre a mile high!

This spectacular week just keeps getting better and this was the best show of the week, so far. Boy it's really fun catching all these shows where my favorite albums of the year are being performed live. And to see these artists when they are at the absolute peak of their performance skills. It's not like seeing someone trying to keep up with past peaks that are not all that enthused or someone trying to recreate something that was gone long ago. This is a special time and I am going to bask in it. And to see bands in a wonderful venue like El Rey only make me appreciate Los Angeles all that much more.

photos by Brad Roberts

No comments: