September 14, 2010
@ Great American Music Hall
Whatever happened to musicians playing just one instrument? These new music school grads-turned-indie rock multi-instrumentalists are everywhere, even in the opening act of a three-band Menomena
gig on a Tuesday night at Great American Music Hall
It's a sure thing that this curmudgeon wouldn't last a day in a rock band in 2010. That was made abundantly clear by last night's versatile headliners, and even more so by the next Brooklyn phenomenon and second band of the show, which is known to everyone but their mothers as Suckers
All of what transpired last night leads us to one conclusion: those freeloadin' bastards in Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
better watch their arses, 'cause it turns out you only need about four people to make a whole lot of noise these days.
That much was plainly obvious in the teasing set of Suckers. Singers drummed (with their heads no less), bassists trumpeted, maracas percussed -- goddamnit -- and everyone joined in on the chorus, which often arrived at places also traversed by the likes of Local Natives
and David Byrne
/Talking Heads (thanks mainly to the voice of presiding farmhand/guitarist Austin Fisher). Fleeting shades of Vampire Weekend
even snuck in when noodling guitars were at play.
When there's a buzz about -- and there is for Suckers -- you go with it, and steal the show if you must. That could explain Suckers lead singer Quinn Walker's accessorizing and re-accessorizing: First the headband, then the fluorescent turquoise beach hat, both fine additions to an already impressive load of tin bling around the neck.
Walker also asked, tongue somewhere in cheek or accessory-to-be-determined-later, "any of you out there dot-commers?"
Excuuuuuuuuuse me? How'd you know?
But hey, we get it. In Brooklyn, you gotta find a way to stand out. No harm, no foul, kinda fun.
What really packed the place last night was the idio-Socratic pop-rock outfit Menomena. Three critically lauded albums (in a row!) had the in-the-know in a rush to check out what's what (and one date was not enough for S.F.; the band plays again tonight at Great American).
Menomena's most recent album, Mines
, expands its concepts of dark, theatrical pop with multiple narrators. Drummer Danny Seim began the storytelling on Tuesday night with "Tithe," his fills as commanding as his haunting man-voice. The spotlight returned to him often, vocal duties or not. And why shouldn't a drummer sing and carry his band (at least in terms of pure musicianship, if not charisma and stage presence)? "Traditional" is a four-letter word in this biz, if my math checks out.
Keyboardist/vocalist Brent Knopf handles Menomena's more plaintive, sentimental-leaning numbers, such as the eventually blissful "Killemall," "Intil" and "Sleeping Beauty."
Ponytailed frontman Justin Harris is something of an onstage conductor, managing a laptop, queue-pedals, guitar, bass, sax -- or "sexyphone," as one fanboy suggested -- and most vocal duties. Unfortunately all that responsibility (or perhaps it was some out-of-his-control technical difficulty) might have been too much last night. One glitch held up the show for a few minutes early on, and another shorter hiccup came a bit later.
But most were left last night with a menomenal phenomenal taste in their mouths, thanks largely to the hyper-tempos of Seim, who for the most part seemed the only one having any fun onstage. Hey Suckers, get these Portlanders some flair!
Personal bias: I actually kind of like it when there's like 10 people on a small stage. Feel like I'm at the circus or in a Coolio video or something.
Overheard/seen in the crowd: "This (Menomena) drummer is owning it." ... Three fans doing cat's cradle with yarn. ... Four trippers loving life more than the rest of the venue combined in the balcony, stage right. (Extra kudos to the girl for jumping up and down for 20 straight minutes.)
Random notebook dump: The lead singer of Opener Tu Fawning had a Beach House thing going on, and I'm talking about the band.
Five Little Rooms
Queen Black Acid
Wet and Rusting
Strongest Man in the World