Antlers and Menomena: One show, two reviews

A review by Leroy Polk
For those reading this in eager anticipation for a fresh review of the 1997 Travolta/Cage masterpiece “Face/Off” – be prepared to be very disappointed. Instead, this review is a dual-effort between two guys who just happened to sit together at a concert.

Menomena and The Antlers, sponsored by the UAA Concert Board, played at UAA on Monday, Sept. 12 in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium, and generated different responses from audience members.
Portland-born group Menomena originally consisted of a trio, consisting of what their website lists as “Brent Knopf on gui­tar, key­boards, and glock­en­spiel; Justin Har­ris on bass, gui­tar, bari­tone sax and alto sax; and Danny Seim on per­cus­sion.” In January of this year, Knopft left the project and was replaced with Paul Alcott. At the Anchorage performance, they added another guitar player to round the group out to four. Their bio remains current in stating, “All mem­bers of the band share singing duties.”
Basically this type of role-shifting, instrument-blending rotation suits the band’s no-frills fun atmosphere and sound. Their lyrics and vocals, while being proficient, focus more on the effect than the technical aspect. Harris would sing most of a song while slapping bass, then take up his saxophone and the drummer would begin singing without skipping a beat.

At several points, all four band members joined together in vocals, and kept in-tune surprisingly well. The entire band seemed to be actually having fun, simply enjoying playing music, and this fact made their set ultimately more enjoyable, deftly warming up the crowd like a good opener should.

The Antlers:
While Menomena got the ball rolling for the “tough crowd” of a roughly 40 percent occupancy Wendy Williamson, The Antlers intercepted that ball and stood around with it instead of aiding its journey onwards.

The group consisted of four members who stick to drums, keyboard, bass, and guitar/vocals. The New York second act’s set drifted between being incredible, and being incredibly bad. The instrumentals and lyricism showed signs of brilliance at times, but was for the most part was drowned out by insanely loud and high-pitched electro noise, which often grew to be virtually unbearable.

This could have been a technical problem on the side of the venue, but as they are very electro-heavy, the involvement of Darby Cicci, the keyboardist and audio mixer, basically determines if they sink or swim.

His overpowering electronic sounds grew to deafening levels, and many audience members were actually plugging their ears. When your audience is plugging their ears, you’re doing something wrong. When Cicci backed off on the volume levels, Peter Silberman’s enchanting vocals actually became audible, and you could get a sense of why they sound so good on studio recordings.

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Unfortunately this was rare in the set, and during their encore they punished the audience’s calls with whole minutes of nothing but blaring electrostatic, marking a significant difference between what is music, and what is s

A review by Matt Caprioli

Menomena (as one may guess from their name) is much more playful and upbeat. They kept their set list on a paper plate. They interacted with the several fake plastic trees sprinkled on the stage.

They pass notes like a beach ball. Drummer Danny Seim passes the melody to bassist Joe Haege, who passes it to Justin Harris on the alto sax.

They all share singing duties, and no one member or instrument seems more important than the others (but that could just be a positive way of saying that nothing stood out).

It was interesting to see why the Concert Board thought the bands would compliment each other. Both gain a distinct style through their use of electronics. The Antlers used it much more, which explains in part why many people classify them as “experimental.” Menomena blended their electronics much more (and more sparingly).

As far as audience interaction, Menomena took the cake.


The Antlers:

The Antlers are for grownups, New Yorkers or very serious adolescents.  It was curious that they were paired with Menomena, a band for the jolly hipster.

Menomena doesn’t have any songs like the Antler’s “Putting the Dog to Sleep”, with lyrics like “Put your trust in me. I’m not gonna die alone,” repeated four times.

Unlike Menomena, there is a standout musician for The Antlers. Frontman Peter Silberman started The Antlers as a solo project, and his voice remains the most captivating thing about the band, whether live or on record.

Unfortunately, keyboardist Darby Cicci was drowning out the other band members, including nearly every word that Silberman sang.

This is a pity: the lyrics are powerful, and they were sacrificed for some amplified iMovie effects. Yet, even without words, you feel the emotion.

During the concert, The Antlers had more technical requirements and consequently, more technical issues. Bassist Tim Mislock’s power supply went off, so he just sort of boogied in place until it came back on. Cicci was wrapped in so many cords that he sometimes had trouble keeping up with the songs.

Disregarding the occasional cacophony, the show was a great experience.