Monotonix: Bay View American Legion Hall, 4.20.10

Tue Apr 27 2010

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’ first Pirate-stomping 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 the same.

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 down.

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.

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