The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, ON
October 17, 2012
Review by: Chad Hutchings
Photos by: Pete Nema
The west coast indie rockers punch through problems to support their latest effort on a Toronto stage.
With last year's announcement of Brent Knopf leaving the group to pursue his work with Ramona Falls, I couldn't help but feel some fear over the future of Menomena. Admittedly, my favourite work by the band was always fronted by other vocalists Justin Harris and Danny Seim, but Knopf's solo efforts always rang heavily with some pretty bold emotion, so it'd be reasonable to assume that his influence played into just how moving some of Menomena's songwriting has been in the past. But, while their new album Moms might arguably falls a little short of the phenomenal Mines (an album that topped out my top 10 of 2010), it still has the life that we've learned to expect from one of Portland's top exports.
This month, the indie rock act visited Toronto in support of the new album, accompanied by others including Paul Alcott (of Dat'r) who showed an inexhaustible energy that was shared by the rest, making the show awfully memorable for the full floor of fans, despite sound issues that plagued the stage from start to near finish.
Suffering through an extended set-up, the act was insistent on resolving a not-so-minor bass issue that couldn't be denied by anyone in the room (proven by an audience poll they resorted to taking at about 2/3 into the set). While the sound issues were were on a slow crawl to a late resolution, it served to highlight a few performance shortcomings – most noticeably some scattered weaknesses in the vocals from all involved.
But plenty of great shows have their hiccups and those struggles. Despite the rawness of the night (which had a certain charm in itself) the set was a wonderful one. The group brought their a-game as far as engagement goes, accenting some stunning work from some of the most talented multi-instrumentalists that I've had the chance of seeing on-stage this year. Clever banter, comfortable presence, and complete commitment to the effort came together to higlight killer renditions of crowd favourites “Strongest Man In The World” and “Queen Black Acid” and my personal favourites “Rotten Hell” and “Five Little Rooms” - a sampling that shows Menomena at the heights of their slightly sinister, slightly disconcerting, and wildly engrossing sound.