The indie kids are all right. Getting further and further away from the ’80s and ’90s, when the term “indie” still carried some significance, hasn’t meant that the indie spirit has completely disappeared. This still-young year has already seen a bumper crop of releases from young indie bands keeping things fresh and vital: Deerhunter and the Ponys, for example, and especially Portland, Oregon’s Menomena. Listening to the band’s Friend and Foe (released in January via Barsuk) or catching the band live (as I did March 10 at the Echo in Los Angeles), it’s clear that the House that Pavement Built is still standing.
After opening sets by Angeleno cult-folkies the Parson Redheads and New York City Strokesters Bon Savants, Menomena took an exorbitantly long time setting up. I got worried that all the critical buzz the band has garnered lately had gotten to their heads, making them think they were rock stars enough to keep the packed, sweaty crowd waiting uncomfortably. (It was around this time that I also realized that too few venues in L.A. have air conditioning; the place was a veritable hellish hotbox.)
But when the members of Menomena finally hit the stage, the youthful fervor they brought with them made it worth the wait. Band leader Brent Knopf channeled all that verve into multiple directions. Singing. Playing keyboards. Grabbing a huge sax. Grabbing an even huger sax. Guitarist Justin Harris zipped out stretches of impressive guitar work. And drummer Danny Seim kept things tightly together behind the kit and sometimes took over lead vocals as well. Together, the three ripped through Friend and Foe highlights like “The Pelican,” “Muscle’n Flo,” and “Wet and Rusting.”
Thinking back about the show, I keep coming back to one word: energy. Menomena brought it. They infused it into the crowd. And all of a sudden we forgot how humid it was in the club and collectively shook our hipster hips.