In all honesty, I’d only heard about Ramona Falls the day prior to the show, but since I’m such a big ol’ honkin’ Menomena fan, I requested the assignment. That being said up front, I didn’t have a real handle on the set list during the show. Therefore what follows will simply be an assessment of the show overall (which rocked).
Brent Knopf took the stage solo, playing the most beautiful black Ovation guitar. I want it. The first song was simple and quite pretty (I’m pretty sure it was “Diamond Shovel”), albeit a tiny bit loud in the vocals. Brent was joined onstage by the rest of Ramona Falls for the duration of the set. Gotta say, the drummer was really the breakout member of the band, joking with the audience, “Ok we’re going to lay down some ground rules…Rule #1: Rock the fuck out…Rule #2: Have a good time!”
It was hard not to associate this project with Menomena, as Knopf’s characteristic keyboards and tremulous voice filled the room over and over. Even so, the entire album is good work and I’m glad I saw it live before I heard it recorded. The band appeared to have a great time working out the set; the fro’ed-out drummer positively wailed on the skins and at times stood to dance, just for the hell of it. I can’t say that I absolutely loved every song, but Brent ain’t always known for playing it safe. Gotta respect the risks (Check out the very schizophrenic “Always Right” if you want to know what I’m talking about). Some songs were a bit disjointed but still contained smart instrumentation and songwriting.
One of my personal favorites was the jangly and desperate “I Say Fever,” which sorta shocked me a little with it’s echoing vocals and total guitar wall. Other quality tracks were the “Russia,” containing those classic Knopf elements and “Bellyfulla” for some beautiful harmonies. As far as I could tell, the only song from Intuit that wasn’t showcased was “Boy Ant”, which is simply a short, ambling piano piece.
In general, the show made for a very pleasant Friday night: The Crocodile was neither too crowded nor too sparse, the audience was good-natured and the multi-instrumental band (I counted 5 guitars and a mandolin, 2 synths, a sampler and a MIDI controller) entertaining to watch. For a four-piece, there was always a LOT going on up onstage. Songs ranged from poppy and pastoral (“Going Once, Going Twice”) to sweet, yet slightly sinister. Effects were layered and complex at the right times (“Darkest Day”), and simplistic where it counted “Melectric”. Brent was extremely gracious to…well…the universe really, thanking the audience, Barsuk, his band, the Crocodile, his mother (just kidding on that last one). What a nice boy. What a nice band (as evidenced in this video).