Look, the Billiken Club is the jam. Not only does the SLU venue book amazing bands (cf. The Twilight Sad), but the college-food court atmosphere lends itself to hilariously surreal tableaux (cf. The Twilight Sad Tries to Order Burritos, Is Too Late). And so it is with no small amount of glee that fans of great music (and surrealism) await Menomena's gig this week. The Portland, Oregon, band's albums are full of gorgeous, noisy, experimental rock. Its videos are full of food fights, tiny dirigibles and perpetual motion-machine prototypes.
And the group's manager is full of 'tude.
I send her a chipper e-mail and casually refer to her as Menomena's "wrangler." She fires back, "I am not familiar with this 'wrangler' you speak of, but I assure you that my clients receive my undivided attention with each and every stride along their journey towards unparalleled success, both in a business (tangible) and spiritual (intangible) sense."
This is just the beginning of an electronic conversation filled with scolding (Menomena's manager), apologizing (me), and rationalizing (my husband, who says, "Sounds like that pug's just fucking with you.")
Yes, Menomena's manager is a pug an adorable black pug, to be exact. Her name is Geddy Lee, she wears DJ headphones in her MySpace photo, and she seems to have better typing skills than many of my colleagues.
"Geddy has always been brilliant with the press," imparts Danny Seim, who shoulders the dual roles of Menomena member and pug dad. "She's still coming around in the not-pooping-in-the-house department though. That might be a metaphor for something."
Metaphorically pooping on a number of my earnest questions, Geddy Lee the Pug comports herself like an aloof college professor who can't be bothered with pedestrian queries.
And when I accidentally introduce a typo into the name of Menomena's most recent release, Friend and Foe (I called it Friends and Foe, and yes, I'm embarrassed), Geddy Lee delivers some swift pug justice.
"With all due respect," she writes, "if you expect me to continue this correspondence, please do not refer to my client's current aesthetic masterpiece as anything other than the proper title we have painstakingly assigned it."
Friend and Foe. Friend and Foe. Singular. I should know by now; I've been listening to the album for months. It's one of the best releases of 2007, packed with crescendoing organs and crazy loops and frighteningly beautiful lyrics. Friend and Foe: I should have it tattooed on my brain.
Seim isn't fazed by my pluralizing gaffe. Geddy, he says, is "quite the stickler for details. You should see her at tax time. No refunds for this band!"
Geddy also has a creative side. On her MySpace page, fans can find "Alive with Pugs," a cover of Viva Voce's "Alive with Pleasure." Seim says that Geddy recorded the track with her feline sister, Boo Radley, who provided lead vocals. The sniffly pug-sounds seem to resurface on the Friend and Foe track "Weird," but Geddy denies her involvement in the song's creation. Or, at the very least, she disapproves of my using the word "snuffling."
"If you are seeking some sort of disclosure from either myself or my client regarding the use of a controlled substance namely an addictive narcotic derived from coca then I assure you that you will receive no such declaration."
(For the record, I would never accuse a dog of snorting coke.)
Still, Geddy's haste in proclaiming her innocence has me wondering: Just what does this pug do for fun? Hoping to join her on some familiar ground, I offer up tales of other pugs that I have known. This one pug I knew, I tell her, enjoyed head-tilting and eating carrot sticks and pooping on back issues of the Riverfront Times.
Not even the mention of renegade pooping can bring me into G. Lee's good graces. She has no patience for the head-tilting, carrot-sneaking variety of pug. "I do not endow myself with such trivial matters," she writes. "My dear, the administration of a musical ensemble possessing my client's level of aptitude knows no time constraint. It is not just a pithy profession that I merely punch in and out of, like the proverbial time clock of an ordinary factory worker."
Worried that this will somehow devolve into a debate about the worth of work, and certain that I could not debate this dog without getting totally owned, I quickly change the subject.
I tell Geddy Lee (the Pug) that St. Louisans love Geddy Lee (the Rush front man). I believe the precise words I use are "completely, totally obsessed." In a turn of conversational events as weird as watching The Twilight Sad get rebuked at the burrito stand, Geddy Lee (the Pug) claims to have no knowledge of her namesake.
Seim thinks it's possible, however, that the pug doesn't realize she isn't the only Geddy Lee. "She's Chinese, you know," he says. (I didn't.) "Her name has an Asian ring to it, so I don't think she's ever thought twice about it. Did you know that the Rush dude's real name is 'Gary'? I hear he got so used to his senile grandmother pronouncing it 'Geddy' that it stuck. Lucky for him... 'Gary Lee' sounds like someone in The Dukes of Hazzard or the Village People, I'm not sure which (is there a difference?)."
Intractable as ever, Geddy Lee ignores not just her namesake, but the existence of Rush as a band. She writes, "It does not surprise me that your locale is obsessed with an obese, politically conservative radio transceiver host. Frankly, I respect you for this obsession. Knowledge is historically proven to be a bedfellow of power."
Seim shrugs off his dog's Machiavellian tendencies. He's not worried about her name-checking Limbaugh: "I'd probably be more concerned for Rush Limbaugh, if his fan base has dwindled to canine managers of obscure hippie rock bands."
He has a point. And, for her part, Geddy thanks me for the interview. Still, before all is said and done, she gets in another jab about my misspelling of Friend and Foe and shows utter disregard for my cat, who happens to be a big Menomena fan. So here's the deal, Geddy Lee: You come to St. Louis, and, in the words of your clients' song "Rotten Hell," we'll step outside, drop the gloves and settle this like a man. Or, you know, I'll bring dog treats and a rubber ball, and you can poop on this article in front of me. As long as I'm standing in the Billiken Club watching Menomena, I'll be happy.