SXSW: Menomena @ The Mohawk

Sometimes the unexpected is a gift. When it was announced that the Polyphonic Spree would be switching stages and would no longer be following Menomena at the Mohawk, I figured the crowd would shrink in number. Not so. Apparently there were more Menomena fans than I had figured. But the real kicker was that early in Menomena’s set — a performance with saxophones, synth, moog and just general craziness — people were singing along.

MP3: Menomena – Muscle’n Flo

I hate to play the gee-willickers, kid-from-a-small-town card again, but the lyrics to “Muscle’n Flow” are not exactly common knowledge around these parts. So hearing Menomena’s powerful vocals echoed by the crowed was just barely short of a religious moment for me.

Really, it should have been no shock to me that Menomena caught on. Their album, Friend and Foe is spectacular and has been my “Employee Recommended” pick at work for well on two months now. But their live show? Well, that’s an even bigger beast.

The songs on Friend and Foe are full of well-thought out arrangements perfectly crafted not to feel like well-thought out arrangements. It feels more organic than calculated. But live, the three members of Menomena went to great lengths to recreate the power that stemmed from the studio. And if that meant playing the saxophone or guitar with your hands while working the moog keyboard with your feet, so be it.

And I nearly wrapped this up without mentioning the hands-down best thing I heard while in Austin. After the opening song, each of the members of Menomena were telling the sound guy how to adjust their monitors; and at the end of his list of volume tweaks, the drummer asked very politely, “Could I get more pot smoke in my monitor?” This was because — as you can imagine for a mid-day weirdo indie-rock performance — there was a good deal of pot smoke in the breeze.

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