Friday, November 16, 2007

Menomena--The Metro, Chicago, Illinois

As it stands right now, Menomena's Friend and Foe might be my favorite album of 2007. A friend of mine asked me to describe it for him and I said, "I don't know, it's just kind of weird." It really is. They even have a song called "Weird". Hooks come and go when you least expect them. And the three-piece band is constantly switching instruments and vocals. All that said, it's a lyrical triumph which is what really makes it stand out in my mind. Still, I wasn't expecting the Metro to be very crowded for music that is "kind of weird". I was wrong. If it wasn't sold out it was close. Maybe weird music is more endearing to the masses than originally thought. And you can't tell me for a second Menomena didn't name their band after classic Muppet's Show song "Mah Na Mah Na". I don't care what they say.

(It was a cold Thursday night so I brought a jacket. The coat check at the Metro is $2. At the Double Door it's only $1. Vic Theater, $3. I feel like you need to know these things.)

I missed the first act. But shortly upon arrival, the wild boys from other opening band, Pennsylvania-based Illinois, took the stage. (If you're really confused by that last sentence just skip to the next paragraph.) They promptly announced that the Metro was their favorite venue and Illinois was their favorite state. Makes sense. Illinois got some local press a few months back when they played at Lollapalooza but this was the first time I had heard their music. They have a really eclectic vibe that they mix with high energy and humor. Good stuff. Lead singer Chris Archibald bounced around from guitar to keyboard to banjo to a song that was almost strictly spoken word. A lot of bands seem to strive for a similar style but Illinois does it better than most. I think I'm going to buy their EP. And hopefully they name their next album "Sufjan Stevens".

Illinois' next project is to release 50 albums; each named for an over-hyped musical act.

Outside of David Bowie and that guy from They Might Be Giants, you just don't see a baritone saxophone that often in contemporary rock music. Well, thank God for Menomena. They weren't 45 seconds into opener "Weird" before Justin Harris started blowing into the sax giving the near capacity crowd a reminder that Menomena is a very different band. "Muscle 'n Flo" came next and concluded my ability to remember a set list. But everyone was going crazy during this song. I was set up in the balcony which allows one to not only watch the band but also watch the crowd. Surprisingly, lots of cute girls are into Menomena and I would collectively rank their presence third behind the girls I saw at Rogue Wave and Band of Horses, respectively. Honestly, go to a Rogue Wave concert's like murderers' row.

Menomena.......Do doo dedoodoo........Menomena......

If they didn't hit every song off of Friend and Foe they came close. And they definitely played all the stuff I wanted to hear with a few songs from their self-released album sprinkled in. When I got their record awhile back and first heard their song "Rotten Hell", I remember immediately hitting the "back" button on my ipod for another listen. It's one of those songs that grabs your attention on first listen. When they played it at this summer's Pitchfork Festival it gave me chills. Same thing happened this night right when drummer Danny Seim kicked it into another gear and Harris belted out....

"Well it's high time we stepped outside;
drop the gloves and settle this like a man..."

That's a great song. They are a great band. Weird is good.

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