Menomena: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (Chicago, IL)
Editor's Note: This is part one of the final two Menomena tour diaries from their European/U.S. extravaganza. Danny has been nice enough to send along some video clips, too (see the bottom of this page).
We are aboard a Jet Blue flight to Chicago, and the Spiritualized reference is especially appropriate for me, because I am under the blissfully ignorant influence of Xanax for the first time in my life. These words seem to be especially clever onscreen, and I seem to be typing with my fists instead of my fingertips. Ahhhh, yes.
Sure, the flight from JFK to O'Hare is only about two hours, but it's still long enough for me to scream inwardly with every slight bump of turbulence. Justin and Brent are sitting to my immediate left, laughing out loud at the Simpsons, and I am typing incoherently. So let's see, where did I leave off? I believe we were leaving France at the time, having just played an amazing but technically challenged set at that big festival. Goodness, that seems like a century ago.
We crossed the English Channel on a ferry and played a second show in London. This time, the venue was called the Old Blue Last, and it was a fun way to bid Europe farewell. We also bid our trusty tour companions Sascha and Jonas goodbye, and boarded our plane back to New York. The flight seemed especially long this time. I was so eager to get back to the States. I watched "Blades of Glory" exactly twice in a row, and we touched down shortly after Will Farrell saved the couples skating competition with his jock strap for the second time. How fitting.
We had three days off in New York, which was quite a luxury. Justin and I immediately met up with one of the nicest couples in the world, Tim and Catherine Putnam. Tim plays in a band with deep Portland roots called The Standard. Menomena has been fortunate to play a few shows with those guys over the years. We've been taking advantage of the Putnam's superhuman generosity for three years now. Not so long ago, they were cooking pork chops for us at 3 am, after a show in Raleigh, North Carolina. Like I said, superhuman. We couldn't repay them if we tried.
However, before we crashed for the night, we had business to take care of. Get ready, it's Transformers: The Movie.
Justin and I left our luggage at The Knitting Factory, a historic Manhattan venue that Tim currently manages. We were hoping to cross paths with Chantelle Hylton, aka our Other Favorite Ex-Portlander Who Now Works at the Knitting Factory, but she wasn't at the club yet. A cab was hailed and we were on our way to the Lower East Side. The first theater had some bad news; Transformers was sold out. We got in another cab and made it in time to a later showing at another venue.
What a horrible movie.
Granted, I wasn't expecting another Citizen Kane. I wasn't even expecting another Blades of Glory. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but I definitely wasn't expecting to see a two-and-a-half hour Chevy commercial. Actually, it was worse than that. At least traditional Chevy commercials have that semi-uplifting "Like a Rock" song. This one had Linkin Park. And John Turturro. And ten million other horribly wrong things with it, but somehow seeing John "Jesus Quintana" Turturro at the center of it all was the most depressing. So I did what any other self-respecting person in New York who was still running on London time would do...I dozed off between the Hiroshima-sized explosions that were happening every three minutes onscreen. At last, the credits rolled. We caught two more cabs, one back to the Knitting Factory to get our bags, and then one to the Putnam's lovely Brooklyn apartment. I hit the Aero Bed hard and lost track of everything for the next ten glorious hours.
The next day we were due for a live recording session for a website I've never heard of called UGO. Brent (who was staying with another friend of ours named Andrew) met us uptown at a fancy studio where Bob Dylan allegedly recorded recently. It was kind of funny loading our gear into the airplane hangar-sized session room, realizing that it would be the first time we've ever recorded in any sort of legitimate studio, in the six-year history of this band.
The UGO guys were really nice. It turns out that it was my ignorance—not their obscurity—that led to my lack of prior knowledge about their website. Girls, comics, sports, video games, and Taking Back Sunday interviews...to quote Stephin Merritt, "If there's anything better in this world, who cares?"
We played four songs, and did a short interview. I guess it turned out okay. I guess we'll soon find out exactly how "okay." It's so weird to just play songs into funny-looking microphones and be completely at the mercy of a stranger in the control room. We usually agonize, sweat, and fight over every single nanosecond of our recordings when we're mixing ourselves back home. But here, we just packed in, rocked out, and packed up. The engineer was a nice guy named Ed who mixed a few records by the bacnd Asia back in the '80s. I'd say we couldn't have been in more capable hands without Bob Rock himself flying in from Maui.
Our friend Arye was kind enough to let Justin and I spend the night in his apartment. It was the second time he's extended his hospitality to us. The first was when we were touring with The Long Winters last year. We were all tired, sick, and sleepless, and Arye stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, waiting for our arrival. He had mattresses on the floor and hot breakfast for us in the morning. I don't know how much longer we can continue to play the sympathy lodging card with these incrediblcy generous friends of ours across the country. Thank you all. Come to Portland, and we will repay you tenfold. With our billfolds or Ben Folds, whatever floats your boats.
The following day was Friday the 13th. Time to play the Seaport Festival. This festival is part of a month-long event that spans the tip of Manhattan, stretching from river to river with free shows every weekend at different outdoor venues, featuring bands like Spoon, The New Pornographers, and well, us. Justin and I took the subway because we were already well over the $100 mark in cab fares over the past two days. I miss my little Honda.
Tim met us downtown. We ate fish and chips with him on the pier, and then took a long walk through Manhattan after sound checking. We went to Ground Zero, which was as depressingly incredible as you'd expect. I've never been that close to the site. We looked through the tall fences at the rebuilding process, and it was quite an emotional experience. It's hard to believe that it's already been six years...as we walked around the perimeter of the site, it was hard not to think of the people jumping to their death upon that same asphalt beneath my feet.
We crossed a few busy streets and ended up in Battery Park. I got to see the Statue of Liberty for the first time in my life, which was kind of boring. She was a tiny speck in the distance, and the kids skateboarding on the stairs next to me were more interesting. I guess it's better if you take a ferry to see Her up close. Or if you finally see Her after being on a ship for weeks from a foreign land, like Tim's great-grandmother. That's pretty awesome. We walked back to Pier 17. It was getting close to showtime.
A band called Beat the Devil was playing before us. They were good: Drums, bass, and a harmonium-wielding female singer with an incredible voice. The skies looked uncertain, but the weather was warm. Several massive boats rocked rhythmically in the murky river water directly behind the stage. Our performance went decently well, I think. The rented gear actually matched our specifications, which was a total unfamiliar treat. The crowd was massive. We should always play for free. Well, maybe not. Thank you, New York.
After the show the three of us took Tim, Catherine, and Andrew out to eat at a Latin restaurant in Brooklyn to celebrate our last night in the Big Apple. It was good, but more importantly, it was open. What happened to the "city that never sleeps"? Or, is it "no sleep 'till Brooklyn"? Regardless, I had two syrupy-sweet mango margaritas and we all enjoyed ourselves. We bid farewell to the Putnams in the morning, I popped my blessed Xanax, and my Simpsons-loving bandmates and I were soon landing in Chicago.