Monotonix: Bay View American Legion Hall, 4.20.10
Posted 04/27/2010 by cal
By all accounts, missing Monotonix
when they come through town is a bad idea. I’ll say one thing: missing
this particular show would’ve been--particularly due to three local
bands that also played, not a stinker among ‘em.
As far as I know, Centipedes have only played a handful of shows
so far, but the Milwaukee band has clearly been rehearsing. They’re
kindred spirits of Young Widows,
essentially math-rock with a jagged hardcore edge. Gutteral yet
melodic guitars and outstanding drumming that sometimes recalled the
ominous plod of Dale
Crover (not a comparison I can make often). I’m hoping to see a
record of some sort from these guys soon.
In between bands, Cataldo’s
(the restaurant downstairs) grew increasingly packed as show-goers
probably guzzled more PBR tall boys and Riverwest Steins than on any
Tuesday in the joint’s history. As an added bonus, we got to see the Brewers’
of the year on the big screen. With drinking and smoking relegated to
downstairs (or outside) but within earshot of the hall, this seems like
an ideal setup for a show this size.
I’d heard a lot about Terrior
Bute over the past year or so, but never caught a show. The
band’s debut album, last year’s Realm Dwellers, came out on the Vicious Pop label, and that’s a
pretty apt description of this set. Some of the most belligerent new
wave ever not made by Devo, the
weird juxtaposition of ultra-organic drumming and hyperspace synth
attack makes for a raucous dance party. There was a bad connection
somewhere in the vox-to-amp circuit, making the set seem a bit more
seat-of-pants than it might otherwise have been, but it was a blast all
Call Me Lightning
has a new bass player (Tyler Chicorel, the drummer from Father Phoenix). The band
also has a new album (When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free)
that’s supposedly been in the can since last year. I even heard a song
from it on WMSE this week, but everybody’s
tight-lipped on the prospects of a release. CML
has a history with tonight’s headliners, and the association seems
to bring out the best in ‘em; they were dialed in tonight. Leaning
heavily on new material that gets better every time I see the band, this
may have been my favorite CML set yet.
Most songs seemed a bit fast, which actually improved a lot of the more
slow-burn/always-on new songs, but they retain the martial urgency.
Drummer Shane Hochstetler sounds more like Keith Moon all the
time, an unavoidable comparison given the band’s name
and not one to sniff at. He and singer/guitarist Nathan Lilley
are evolving the band’s sound further from concise pop songs into more
textural jams, but there’s still that harrowing electricity that defines
the band, brought home with authority on set-closer “Soft Skeletons”.
I came in pretty green on the whole Monotonix scene. Had heard a tune
or two, and WMSE’s promo for the show every twenty minutes for the past
couple of weeks, plus rumblings here and there at other shows. It can
all be summed up thusly: you have to see these guys. It’s tough
when a band builds up such a reputation for insanity: no drinks allowed
in the hall, so how are the band members going to grab ‘em and pour ‘em
on themselves? Oh yeah, and what about the music?
The impact of the performance is still a little tough to understand. It
was almost exactly what I expected, and an absolutely wild, visceral
thrill, despite the fact that nobody in the band even set himself on
fire. I think the heart of the matter is that the three Israeli maniacs
(singer Ami Shalev, guitarist Yonatan Gat and drummer Haggai
Fershtman) are so overflowing with good will and a desire to
entertain that you can’t help but get caught up in it.
Wallflowers beware: nowhere is safe from the onslaught. Few songs were
played from the “stage” area. After a couple of opening songs, the
whole operation moved to the center of the dancefloor with barely a
pause to dis- and re-assemble the rudimentary drumkit. We all just
crammed right up in a blob around the band as they wailed away through
their lively garage rock songs, and also, one of the greatest drum solos
ever, as the crowd held Shalev aloft and played call/response as he
would strike the snare he was holding, all wrapped up in the hurricane
of sound that Fershtman created on his own.
Soon, the setup was dismantled and moved to the risers on one side of
the room and then the other, and the band played on, blurring the
distinction between observer and participant to the delight of
most/discomfort of a few. At one point, Monotonix returned to the stage
and made everyone sit down, then invited a drummer from the crowd to
play while Fershtman waltzed with a lucky female fan. Following this
brief lull, we were all led to the back of the room, through the doors
and out into the chilly April air, the band playing all the while. In
seconds, Shalev was swinging around on the Kinnickinnic/Fulton street
sign as the crowd raged around him. It had been a while since I’d been
to a show and felt like the cops could arrive any second and shut it
The band hustled back inside before long and finished the song (over and
over again), and that was it. I couldn’t say how long the band played;
everything happened so fast, it was like a benevolent car crash.
Clearly, the no-drinks rule had little effect, as bottles, cans and cups
lay strewn about the room, and it seemed that within seconds after the
playing stopped, the band and crowd had dispersed. The tornado had
swept in, upended the building and set it back in place.
I can hear you asking about the music, but I’ve told you about as much
as I can. If you don’t want to see these guys based on what I’ve just
described, the music won’t make a bit of difference either way. It’s
just part of the show.