Good things are supposed to come in threes, which must account for the magic of last night’s show at the Bowery Ballroom: a triple bill of indie-rock trios, hailing from three distant lands. Three can be an awkward number of members for a band to have — neither as intimate as a duo, nor as expansive as a quartet or quintet — but that didn’t seem to bother any of these acts.
First up was Montreal’s Land of Talk, which I hadn’t realized had so few members. (Doesn’t Canada’s awesomely artist-friendly constitution have a clause mandating that all bands include at least eight players?) There’s nothing small about their sound, though. Frontwoman Elizabeth Powell kicked up a desperate racket of guitar feedback around her own tremulous lead vocals, while drummer Bucky Wheaton and bassist Chris McCarron played like their lives depended on it. Their too-brief set ran through most of their new EP Applause Cheer Boo Hiss; when it was over, the audience gave ’em lots of the first pair and none of the latter.
Next came Field Music(pictured), proud sons of Sunderland, England. These guys areessentially a pair of wacky siblings, Peter and David Brewis, who’veroped good buddy Andrew Moore into accompanying their antics onkeyboard. Their whimsical avant-pop compositionsnever contain more elements than are strictly necessary, eliminatingthe need for further band members. Last night every little riff andrhythm fit into place like snug jigsaw pieces — every bit as preciselyas their meticulous studio creations.
Last but not least were headliners Menomena,a crew of mad sonic scientists from Portland, Oregon who spontaneouslyassemble their albums using a piece of custom software designed by bandmember Brent Knopf. Live, they multitasked furiously to capture thatimprovised energy, switching instruments every few seconds so thatelegant piano runs could overlap with squalling guitar solos andraucous bass-sax bursts. Toward the end of the set, an enormousbirthday cake was brought out for band member Justin Harris’s 30th. Heseemed genuinely surprised and pleased as the crowd wished him well,but the treat was all ours.