Dexterous feats

Menomena + Field Music + Land of Talk, Great Scott, March 27, 2007
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  March 28, 2007


Those of us too poor to make it down to Austin for last week’s SxSW festival were treated to a mini-showcase of some of indie rock’s strongest up-and-coming bands at Great Scott last night. Openers Land of Talk, a solid post-rock trio from Montreal, played through most of their breakthrough EP, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, and upped the energy and charisma with every song. Singer/guitarist Elizabeth Powell sounds like the jilted-lover twin sister of that girl from Sixpence None the Richer. Outside of a few lapses into easy, populist dance-punk drum breaks, the group carved its niche with gusto.

England’s Field Music, looking pissed-off and sullen for the first few tracks, perked up after they got their sound mix figured out. The band cruised in sequence through the first half of their excellent new album, Tones of Town. Lead singers and brothers Peter and David Brewis gamely swapped drummer/guitarist positions every few songs, both completely adept at managing the band’s start-stop rhythms and often-nonexistent time signatures. Smart and gracious, they behaved like The History Boys’s forgotten indie-pop band: angsty but well-schooled show-offs.

Menomena’s set change was exhausting, but the Portland, OR trio began around midnight amid a floor cramped with pedals, two saxophones and at least three guitars. The great kick of seeing this band live is discovering how they’ll recreate their dense songs, which are patched together on a self-designed, loop-recording computer program called Deeler.

The answer? Feats of absurd dexterity. There’s Brent Knopf, playing the xylophone and keyboard at the same time with a guitar on his back . . . Oh wait! He’s using it now! There’s Justin Harris, switching guitar pedals by the beat before he bounds over to the saxophone suspended to a mic stand for easier access. There’s Danny Seim, taking frontman duties on a few songs while still pounding through mad-genius complicated, syncopated beats.

Outside of a strangely empty take on fan-favorite “Muscle ’n Flo,” the band filled the massive shoes of its triumphant new album, Friend and Foe, without a hitch. Crowd and band sweat buckets and loved every minute of it, and the boys even broke their no-encore policy, or tried to before Danny bolted across the street to McDonalds the second the set ended. We all waited ten or fifteen minutes for him to get back. And it was worth it.

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