The clouds above the Fox Theatre Wednesday night were trying to decide if they would let out all their rain on the line of ticket holders outside. As people were hugging the walls, trying to get the most out of their small corner of store-front canopy, most of the conversations were one-sided — mainly from New Pornographers fans explaining to their companions which solo project caused touring conflicts for which members when.
If I had to label the buzzy feeling outside, I would call it “shivering, intellectual excitement.”
Menomena got things going early. The multi-talented Portlanders had a major shift in line-up this year as Brent Knopf left to focus on Ramona Falls. The band retained their touring pal Joe Haege and added Paul Alcott to keep their instrument juggling on stage under control.
The upheaval doesn’t seem to have affected them. As the New Pornographers’ tour support, the short set was a “best of” of Menomena’s music. Front men Danny Seim (drums, vocals) and Justin Harris (everything, vocals) split their time leading the songs. Watching Harris switch back and forth from bari-sax to bass and guitar while continuing to massage his synth foot pedals was hypnotizing, especially when it all collides in one song. The near-capacity crowd was primed for another coat of Northwestern indie.
The New Pornographers kicked off their evening with “Moves,” a familiar feeling pop-rock track off their new album, “Together.” The song was an excellent opportunity for roll call, since its music video kept track of the band by casting comedians as each band member. So on stage last night were A.C. Newman, Blaine Thurier, Todd Fancey, Neko Case, Kurt Dahle, Kathryn Calder and John Collins. Dan Bejar was absent (doing Destroyer stuff). On this tour, the New Pornos adjusted their set list to favor the Newman/Case/Calder vocals, but they still hit plenty of fan favorites from the whole catalog.
They played hard, breaking only occasionally for sarcastic Pacific Northwestern banter. A handful of small, but noticeable, technical problems didn’t phase them. They milked their ballads and amped up their faster songs. Their air of confidence makes their collection of poppy rock songs seem elite but entirely accessible. Everyone in the band has that level of coolness that keeps them a bit stoic, until one of them cracks a joke about Menomena stealing their equipment and making a getaway in matching dune buggies (Neko). That attitude is exactly what makes their live show great.
The New Pornos finished out the hour-and-a-half set with a three-song encore. Boulder fans left the Fox satisfied as they opened up their umbrellas.
Slow Descent Into Alcoholism
It’s Only Divine Right
All the Old Showstoppers
The Laws Have Changed
Jackie, Dressed in Cobras
Adventures in Solitude
Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
We End Up Together
Your Hands (Together)
My Rights Versus Yours
Testament to Youth in Verse
Bleeding Heart Show
Up In The Dark
Sing Me Spanish Techno
Nathan Rist is a freelance photographer and a regular Reverb contributor. He hails from the mountains of Telluride, but he’s currently studying at the University of Colorado at Boulder.