Menomena with Illinois: Worth it.
J. Gordon
11/6/2007 9:15:16 PM

Billiken Club shows at the SLU Campus are almost always great: really cool indie acts and NO ADMISSION CHARGE. So what if it’s in a school cafeteria? So what if they always have the same local band as the opener? So what if the shows are famous for running late and you have to get up at 5:30 a.m. the next morning? This is Menomena we’re talking about! You deal, because you know it’s gonna be worth it.

And it was.

The show really opened with Illinois, who are from Pennsylvania, and have no real connection to the Midwestern state beyond a relative a few generations back who had Illinois as a first name. Afraid that the tone for the evening had been established by the local opener, a Howard Jones rip-off, it was a joy to learn that we were incorrect. The set seemed a little too short, but that may be because most of their songs are just a couple minutes long. Illinois is a great indie-pop band that, with the coup of a soundtrack slot on the popular cable TV show, “Weeds,” and they’ll most likely be getting a lot of attention before long. Deservedly so.

Menomena, which rhymes with “phenomena,” (for the idiots like me who’ve been saying it men-oh-meen-uh for the last year), are a must-see. They’re a smart Portland band (what is it about that city?) that performs with no ridiculous posturing, no too-cool-for-school attitudes, and no boring spacey jams to fill stage time. This trio is loaded with talent, and the two front guys do equal vocal time and both play a couple instruments apiece. They seemed to have a good sense of humor and played off well with the truly strange things the audience shouted at them (ex: “you have enchanting qualities!”)

That baritone sax is this band’s signature sound, adding a serious groove to the weird lyrics and quirky vocals. But the guy doesn’t even play it normally—this is experimental sax as much as the rest of what Menomena is doing. They did an hour set of all their best songs, including “Muscle ‘N Flo,” “Wet and Rusting,” “Rotten Hell,” and closing with “Evil Bee” just after midnight. The real phenomena of Menomena is that they’re not more famous. But if that means more intimate, wonderful free shows, I’m happy to keep it that way for a while.

Photo of Menomena from their MySpace page


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