It's taken me a few days to process what happened at Satyricon on Friday night as part of MusicFest NW. It was one of those situations that was so outrageously amazing that after it's over you begin to doubt if it actually happened.
Growing up in Northern California I was blessed by a phenomenal music scene. Concert promoter Bill Graham helped make San Francisco mecca for rock shows. With my varied interests in music I've seen a lot of very different shows in a wide variety of venues. Few shows have left me as mouth-open-awe-struck as the Monotonix show at Satyricon.
I had heard tales from friends who had seen Monotonix live: drummers body surfing, instruments set ablaze and all around insanity. It was my friend Ian Jane who most emphatically insisted I see them perform… I don't know how I'll ever thank him.
Many bands are known for their onstage antics. It's the very showmanship which earns bands a following when they play live. You go to a U2 concert, not because the music is great (although it is), but for the amazing show that they put on. Some bands are all about show. Kiss rocks, but would you really go see them if they played without the grease paint and pyrotechnics? Would Hannah Montana be the same without the four story video screens? What Monotonix did in their Friday night show went far beyond antics or showmanship, it was a complete musical revolution.
From the first note of the show Monotonix declared their musical independence. Rather than setting up their instruments on stage they put them right in the middle of the show floor. Everyone encircled them as they assembled their drum kit and plugged in to their amps. Then it happened, like an explosion Monotonix filled every corner of the room with their music, the entire (and I do mean entire) club erupted in dance.
I've been in my fair share of mosh pits in my time (the most memorable was Pantera when they played in Watts/Los Angeles), but I've never been in a pit that included every single person in a club. Also the 'pit' at the Monotonix show was unlike any pit I've been in before. Rather than people pushing and shoving eachother, elbowing and flailing, the entire room bounced and danced together.
As Monotonix played you could see the sheer glee on the faces of everyone in the club. Monotonix somehow was re-capturing something that we all thought was lost – a real, honest to goodness punk rock show. True punk has become extremely rare, there are many bands out there trying to be punk rockers, emulating the bands which came before them, but so few simply ARE Punk. Monotonix is punk.
It's impossible to capture what happened that night…This is the best I can do:
Flying through the air lead singer Ami Shalev crowd surfs as he sings, pausing only to climb up to a high ledge on the ceiling of the club. A trash can is bounced around, water is flying through the air. The high hat is kicked over and promptly reset. The guitarist leaps up onto the stage and then jumps back off. Nothing in the room is still. After a few songs the band picks up their instruments and moves them further to the back of the club and the circle of people follow.
"Sit Down", "Everybody Sit Down!" yells Ami, and miraculously everyone listens. I am drenched in sweat, I am thirty seven years old and haven't been in a pit in years. I am half leaning and half supporting the people around me as we sit on the floor of Satyricon. Ami thanks everyone for being at the show and then instructs everyone to wait till he counts to four till they jump up and dance. "One… Two… Seven…. Nine…. Five…. What comes after Three?!?!", everyone yells "FOUR" He says, Wait for it!"… and then "FOUR". Again Monotonix is an explosion of sound.
A few songs later they're heading towards the door. Stretched way past the end of their amp cables, so they unplug, carry their instruments outside where Ami climbs a tree, moons everyone and makes a speech. The drum is lifted with the drummer on top and he bangs on it. The concert ends in a street side celebration of music.
Everyone stood, mouth agape looking at eachother… "Did this just really happen?" "Oh my fucking God!"
The Monotonix show was one that people will talk about for years, it's the kind of show that you thank your lucky stars you were at or curse the sky that you missed. Monotonix returns to Portland at the end of the month with The Silver Jews at the Wonder Ballroom. They are not to be missed