Live Last Night: Monotonix and Dark Meat
I learned my lesson during the second song: There is no "safe" spot during a Monotonix show, especially in a club as tiny as the Red & the Black. I thought I would be out of harm's way hiding next to the bar, but it only took a few minutes for singer Ami Shalev to make his way to the back of the room, hop on the bar, grab an almost-full bottle of Yuengling from my left hand and promptly pour the entire thing down the front of his pants.
Just another night with Monotonix.
I knew what sort of mayhem to expect from the Israeli garage-punk trio Saturday night after seeing and speaking to them in Austin last month. Like one of those shows at Sea World, if you're within 15 feet of the performers, you're in the "splash zone." At the Red & the Black, that's the entire performance space, especially because the band refuses to use the stage, instead setting up shop in the middle of the room. It's pure spectacle, of course, but there's no spectacle like it.
You knew it was on before the music even started, when drummer Gever lit his drumsticks on fire. From that point on, it was all eyes on Shalev as he stalked the crowd, sprayed beer all over, had beer poured on him, built a small fire on the club foor, dumped an entire garbage can on Gever's head mid-song, gave some "lucky" audience members and bartenders a close-up view of his bare backside before sticking the microphone in his buttcrack, and tried to get a female audience member to rub his sweaty, hairy chest. And so on, for a little more than a half-hour. (For some good pictures, click here.)
As Rob Harvilla noted in his review of Monotonix on the Village Voice blog, watching the reactions of audience members is half the fun of seeing Monotonix. There's a definite split of horror and hilarity and it's pretty easy to figure out. Shalev's hairy butt inches from your face = horror. Seeing this happen to another person = hilarious. And there's certainly some humor in seeing Ian MacKaye get sprayed with beer, which happened Saturday night.
The music really is secondary, but you have to appreciate what Gever and guitarist Yonatan Gat do while Shalev is wreaking havoc. Gat mostly avoided the chaos, keeping to the side while laying down monster rock riffs. But sometimes he'd get right in the middle and, at the end of the night, when the entire trio performed on the bar -- drumkit included -- he demonstrated some of the best concentration you'll ever see. Gever kept bashing away even while getting trash poured on him and when Shalev scooped up the kick drum and relocated it to the back of the room.
Since the opening act was Dark Meat, I knew there would be more people in the club than the last time I was at the Red & the Black. Even with "only" 15 members in tow, the Athens, Ga., collective made quite a racket. I'll say this -- that was definitely the best set I've ever seen by a band that used a leafblower to shower the audience with confetti. No bouncy balls or glowsticks like in Austin-- just confetti, balloons and streamers this time. The confetti was out of control -- I was shaking it out of my hair the rest of the night and there are still little orange circles in my car and apartment. And in what was perhaps a bit of foreshadowing, lots of pieces of confetti landed in my beer, meaning that my first Yuengling tasted even more like paper than usual. At least I got to drink it at all.
There's certainly something to be said for standing only a few feet away from a 15-piece band that features a full horn section. You definitely feel it in your gut. Differentiating one song from another was tough to do, but you can say the same thing about most mope-rock bands who aren't 0.1% as fun to watch. I'll say that my song was the one in which the violin player didn't play anything but instead just ran/jumped/shook in her little nook at the back of the stage. She was making hilarious faces throughout and it reminded me of Jane Wiedlin as Joan of Arc leading the exercise class in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."
-- DAVID MALITZ
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