Menomena, All Smiles

Solar Culture Gallery, Friday, June 15

If you've lived in Tucson long enough and have been regularly attending live shows, you know that as the graduation caps fly, and the days of highs in the '80s become a faded memory, so too will those spring nights when you were overwhelmed with live-music choices. Last Friday was a welcome return to those nights.

Plush featured the one-man electro-hip-hop geek-squad of Dan Deacon; Solar Culture had Portland, Ore.'s Menomena and former Granddaddy guitarist Jim Fairchilds' new band, All Smiles; and at Club Congress, local psych-punk-prog rockers Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout headlined a multi-act tour sendoff.

My Magic Good Show 8-Ball guided me to Solar Culture.

All Smiles' Fairchild alternated between a synth piano (sans effects for this act) and an acoustic guitar, playing straightforward rock that reminded me of a more down-to-earth version of Coldplay. (And I mean that in the best way, all you Chris Martin haters out there.) Of note: While complimenting the Old Pueblo, Fairchild cited Giant Sand's Howe Gelb as essential to Fairchild having a career in music, and he reminded us how lucky we were to have Gelb as a resident. Duly noted, sir.

The multitasking trio of Menomena immediately won me over with the little heart cutout singer/keyboardist/guitarist Brent Knopf placed over his glowing Mac apple. Knopf had the laptop balanced on top of a synthesizer (which frequently triggered solar plexus-rattling bass lines), just beside a glockenspiel that was secured with duct tape. Sometimes he'd be playing two instruments at once while tapping his laptop, doing God knows what.

Let's not forget Menomena's Justin Harris, who shared vocals and played bass, baritone sax and alto sax in ways you wouldn't expect. Percussionist Danny Seim also sang, and I half-expected to see him back there with a hot plate, cooking up quesadillas for the audience.

The overall experience was like seeing the call-and-response fun of Mates of State with the jerky electronic dance-assault moments of The Album Leaf. Most of the crowd was dancing during the set, except for the drunk idiots (whom I nicknamed Run DM-Greek) decked out in Abercrombie, ballcaps turned backward, arms crossed through most of the set.

The show ended early enough to make my way to the Mr. Free experience at Congress later in the night, which gave me new respect for Sumo wrestlers and their ability to keep their packages tucked away during competition.

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