Playing at Denver’s intimate Bluebird Theater, Menomena left few things to be desired, except for a stoic audience to show its enjoyment of the concert.
The Portland, Ore., indie rock duo’s performance on Friday was strong and entertaining, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many fans getting down with the music more than tapping their toes or swaying throughout the night.
Justin Harris of Menomena performs at the Bluebird on Friday. (Avalon Jacka/CU Independent)
Maybe Menomena’s live audiences are meant to consider various complexities of the compositions rather than dance to the beat, but while listening to Menomena’s discography, it’s easy to expect their live audience to break into borderline-mosh pit dancing, especially in songs with driving rhythms like “Five Little Rooms,” “Muscle’n Flo” and “Don’t Mess With Latexas.”
When the band’s songs came though the Denver speakers, however, only a few fans sprinkled throughout the floor section and further back in the theater bobbed with the bass. Even fewer fans kept moving with slower, less danceable songs, such as “Capsule” and “Queen Black Acid.”
The lack of physical expression of enjoyment might just be how the indie community appreciates a setlist because the applause and cheers grew louder between each song as the night progressed.
It’s possible that the audience had danced themselves out during opening act, Guards. Menomena’s Danny Seim described Guards as the, “pop side of the music spectrum,” compared to his band’s darker tones.
Regardless of the reasoning, Denver may be too cool for its own good when an audience won’t dance for Menomena’s upbeat songs, which are as danceable as any EDM song. But at least we can scream out our lungs with what little oxygen is in them for a great performance.
Despite my own disappointment with Denver’s dance moves, Menomena played a solid set that put them on the top of the “Best Indie Live Shows” list. Because both singer-songwriters Seim and Justin Harris are multi-instrumentalists and their own back-up band, it was interesting to watch the evolution of which player would man what instrument from song to song.
Seim and Harris carried the energy of the band and audience on their shoulders. Both were highly physical musicians. Seim manned the drums while Harris switched between an baritone sax, bass and occasional guitar. By the end of the night, Harris had sweat through his shirt and Seim was literally dripping. It was proof enough that they gave Denver everything they had for the Friday show.
Menomena bass lines are the most intricate and melodic bass lines in indie music. The bass was loud enough to reverberate through the floor and cut straight up audience members. The show might have even out-bassed a hip-hop show in a competition. Often times, the bass carries more importance than the guitar line, especially in the encore-opener “TAOS.” As a person who cranks up the bass specifically to listen to a Menomena song, I encouraged its overwhelming power live.
The one upsetting part of the actual show was Harris’ vocal sound levels. His voice blended evenly with the back-up vocals through most of the set. Although this enhanced the band’s complicated harmonies, Harris is one of two lead singers, not a trio or quartet. His line should stand out, not blend in. His crescendos are some of the more inspiring segments of Menomena music. Live, those should have been the highlights of the show, but because of the wrongly chosen mic levels, Harris’ highest points were set apart from the back-up, but just barely. All discredit on that one goes to the sound guys.
Disregarding the mic level issues and an audience that for the most part was too cool to show their enthusiasm, Menomena played one of the best indie shows in Denver in the last year. Near the end of the show, pianist Dave Becker said that, for him, Denver was the best show on the tour. For Denver, Menomena and Guards was the best show of the night, regardless of who was playing at the 1stBank Center.
Contact CU Independent News Budget Editor Avalon Jacka at Avalon.email@example.com.
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