Live Reviews: Menomena, Festival in the Desert & Dusty Rhodes

This week, we have three reviews, one from Boston and the other two from Seattle.

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Menomena, Paradise Rock Club, Boston, 11/9/07

review by Miriam Lamey
photos by Jason Bergman

It may have been a very chilly night in Boston, but Portland natives Menomena more than heated up the packed Paradise Rock Club. Indie aficionados and PBR-swilling college kids stood, quite literally, shoulder to shoulder to watch Menomena’s set. And the band did not disappoint. The lads took the stage to an appreciative roar from the crowd and they jumped crazily right into their set, with the itchy, edgy, sax-fuelled track “Weird.” The blend of surprising percussion, keys, sax and whooping guitars set a unique tone, for the band appeared simultaneously relaxed and completely off-the-wall.

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When the band paused briefly between songs. Guitarist Justin Harris surveyed the audience and proclaimed the venue “wicked awesome.” As the audience whooped and laughed in response, the band went right into their next tune, the more subdued “Muscle and Flo’.” It transmitted prettily and sweetly through the venue. Overall, the sound quality was decent, although far too loud, making the keys pierce painfully. Later in the set, Menomena started to rock out and invited the opening band, Illinios’ singer, Chris Archibald, onstage for the trippy, sixties rock number, “Cough Coughing.” The frenzied drums and almost comical egg-shaking percussion accents came together to give the music an excited, haphazard feel. Yet Menomena channeled this energy well; they managed to remain very levelheaded and calm, despite the more upbeat number and crazy overhead light patterns that gave them almost an eerie glow.

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The creepy green lights continued to flash over the band as they moved into a couple of darker tracks, including “The Pelican” from their latest release, Friend and Foe. Heavy basslines rumbled through the venue and the sound was almost uncomfortably loud; it felt like even the walls were shaking. Interestingly, this gave the music a dark, bitter vibe that some of the audience didn’t really seem to notice as theses individuals kept dancing and even chatting while Menomena continued playing. Yet Harris perhaps picked up on some fans’ excited interest, for he jokingly asked, “Where have you been all our lives, Boston?” as he thrilled to their investment in the music.

The highlight of Menomena’s set was the gorgeous “Wet and Rusting,” where they completely nailed the balance between presenting an intense, almost melancholy, emotion with intricate vocals, lonely keys and perky, fast drums. The genuine beauty and dueling melodies was certainly goosebump-inducing. Even though the overall sound was still far too loud, this track lost none of its nuance and rang through the venue. However, Menomena’s complete performance was balanced and professional, and they managed to present their humor and creative quirkiness in a natural manner throughout.

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Tinariwen & Vieux Farka Touré, Festival in the Desert, Town Hall, Seattle 10/31/07

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review and photos by Catherine Roth, Wo-Pop intern

The sold out Festival in the Desert at Town Hall last Wednesday, October 31, presented two phenomenal acts, Vieux Farka Touré and Tinariwen.

Vieux is the son of the late, great African blues musician, Ali Farka Touré. He and his band filled the hall with playful energy, showcasing their fusion of traditional African blues with lighter, modern influences that sparked Seattleites to dance. There was a more soulful component of their performance as well: when Vieux took up exactly where his father had left off and played raw African blues. Already an extraordinary guitarist, young Vieux is obviously at the beginning of a long and successful career.

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Tinariwen blew me away. Formed in Touareg rebel camps, the band (unfortunately without Mina on Wednesday) addresses the politics and repression of the Tourareg people both lyrically and instrumentally. Almost totally stationary on stage, they only took a few seconds to delve deep into their rich, full sound that has prompted BBC World Music Awards nominations– that is– their raw, rhythmic, politically charged rock’n’roll.

I will remember this concert for the rest of my life; it was a Halloween full of the most skillful guitar playing I have ever witnessed.

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Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, Neumo’s, Seattle 11/9/07

review by Ben Guerechit

They call themselves Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, after lead singer Dustin Apodaca, his Rhodes keyboard and some river in Orange County California. Neumo’s played host to some of the most enthusiastic and pure unadulterated fun I’ve witnessed in quite some time.

The six rag tag band of geek-sters bitch-slapped me with a palm full of Rick Wakeman, Charlie Daniels and burlesque circus music. Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a stainless steel De Lorean DMC-12 reading “Made In Belfast,” Apodaca grasped my attention with a Dio death grip, as he rose his left fist to the sky and banged out groove-laden organ chords. Meanwhile lead guitarist Edson Choi and Andrea Babinski on violin kept the tortured melody from spinning out of control as drummer Eri Chirco created a whirlwind of snare, bass and kick drum. And this was all in the first two freakin’ songs. Apodaca then stepped to the mike and sarcastically suggested that we all step closer to the stage as the “place is really packed tonight” and everyone needs to be closer for safety reasons. We were all happy to.

Rhodes and the River band continued on in this fashion bouncing back and forth between walls of classic country rock and prog-metal. At one point they had the crowd clapping and chanting in unison “no I can’t wait to be free!” like a gospel choir during “Keys To The Truck”.

The dagger was securely staked in my heart when they pulled out all the stops and performed a rousing rendition of “The Weight.” I’m in love with this band.

Oh and I forgot to mention… they were the opening for J.J. Grey and Mofro. I was honestly afraid Mofro might not be able to follow what I had just witnessed. They did and it was also fantastic, but the story of the night was Dusty Rhodes and the River Band.

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