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Monotonix – A Music Fest NW Review

September 19, 2009 No comments
Monotonix in Portland (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

Monotonix in Portland (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

Often when we listen to music, it’s over little white headphones that connect to our iphones or ipods, literally plugging us into our music. We own music, download it and possess it. For many, music is a very personal experience. Monotonix turns that relationship completely on its head by creating a concert experience where people are compelled to come together to experience the music rather than consume it individually.

Monotonix has very little regard for the conventional structure of a concert. They assemble their instruments on the floor of the venue surrounded by a ring of fans. When the concert starts, it’s an explosion. The entire room moves. It’s not like a mosh pit where people flay and spin bashing into each other; rather, it’s one big circular mass that moves as one.

The Crowd Moves as One (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

The Crowd Moves as One (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

The Music Fest NW set was a lot more tame than their previous Portland performances. Monotonix lead vocalist Ami Shalev spent a lot less time showing off his ass or simulating fellatio with audience members and spent a lot more time singing and rocking. This was a nice change for Monotonix, who seem to be continually refining and focusing what they do. Ami also spent a lot more time hoisted above the crowd. I was struck at site of the the constant sea of hands hosting and holding Ami, drums and the occasional crowd surfer. It was profoundly beautiful. The final song of the set was performed with Ami sitting on a stool playing the drums all hosited in the air by the audience.

Monotonix - The Crowd is The Stage (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

Monotonix - The Crowd is The Stage (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

There’s something about a Monotonix show that creates an instant community. As two people collided at the periphery of the circle, their glasses went flying, and immediately the crowd around them made room and began looking for the glasses. In an almost perfect moment the two both emerged holding each other’s glasses. It wasn’t a moment you’d expect at an ‘Israeli Punk’ show.

Crowd Surfing at Monotonix (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

Crowd Surfing at Monotonix (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

I’ve seen Monotonix now three times, and I can honestly say they’re not a one trick pony. Musically I do think there’s some room for growth. Their song Body Language (off their debut album of the same name) shows off some real potential for what they can do. I didn’t feel that some of their new songs were at the same level although the performance overall has certainly grown. But you don’t go see Monotonix for just music. It’s an absolutely amazing experience and one which anyone who loves rock music should have. Seeing Monotonix at Music Fest NW was a fantastic reminder to me of why I love music and why I go see live music. Music can be so much more than just consumed and it’s great to be reminded of just how alive it really is.

See more photos from Monotonix’s MusicFest NW set here:

A special thanks to Ken Aaron of Neighborhood Notes, whose pictures captured what my words could not.

For more information on Monotonix and Musicfest NW:

Music Fest NW – Go See Girl Talk and Monotonix

September 16, 2009 No comments
Monotonix is Not to Be Missed

Monotonix is Not to Be Missed

I’ve always been a fan of WWeek‘s Music Fest Northwest . The fact that it’s a smaller regional fest in an era of megafests really creates a nice opportunity to get small venue experiences with up and coming bands.

This year MFNW features two of my absolute favorite small venue bands:

Monotonix (listen to our interview with Monotonix), an Israeli punk slash rock band is a show not to be missed. Monotonix’s shows are a tornado of energy where almost anything can happen. Monotonix sets up on the floor of the venue (in this case it’ll be at the Roseland) and then they explode.  If you’re going to see one Music Fest NW show this year, make it Monotonix, it’ll be an experience you’ll never forget. [Monotonix plays at The Roseland Theater on Friday Septemer 18th at 10pm followed by Bad Brains at 11pm it’s one of the best double bills of the fest]

Another ‘band’ that is extremely fun is Girl Talk. While not technically a ‘band’, Girl Talk will completely blow your expectations of what one guy can do with a laptop. Bringing together samples from almost every genre and era of music. It’s amazing what gets mixed together, think songs like Elton John’s Tiny Dancer can’t collide with Kanye “Jackass” West’s Gold Digger,  it can and will and the result is some of the most dancable tunes you’ll ever hear. It is absolutely impossible to see Girl Talk and not dance and his shows are some of the most fun I’ve seen . [Girl Talk plays at The Roseland Theater (8 NW 6th Ave) on  Thursday September 17th at 11pm with Brother Reade and Guidance Counselor who go on starting at 9pm]

Other notable shows to be on the lookout for:

Arctic Monkeys – Friday Sept 18 @ 7pm Wonder Ballroom
Modest Mouse – Sunday Sept 20 @ 10pm Crystal Ballroom

Also I asked Trevor Solomon, the festival’s artistic director which band he felt was the ‘hidden gem’ of the fest and he immediately replied Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (Read the Review of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros in Portland who play at Holocene on Thursday Sept. 17 @ Midnight.

Since many of the individual concerts are sold out, the best way to get in is to buy a Music Fest NW wrist band ($60) which gives you access to all the shows of the fest from Wednesday night through Sunday.

For more information about Musicfest NW:

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Monontix Portland Show Pictures

October 3, 2008 No comments

I’m happy to report lightening can strike twice. Here are my photos from the Monotonix Show at The Wonder Ballroom:

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Interview with Monotonix

Monotonix at The Wonder Ballroom

Monotonix at The Wonder Ballroom

In my final installment of my coverage of Monotonix, I have a back stage interview which I did with the band.

In the interview Monotonix talks about how thier performing from the floor got started, what they see as the definition of punk, how many times they’ve gotten injured in their shows and what the future may hold for the band.

Listen to the complete Monotonix interview which runs about 15 mins.

Be sure to check out the Monotonix web site and see when they play in your area… and be sure to see them. You can thank me later.

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Why Monotonix Is So Important To Music

Monotonix at The Wonder Ballroom

Monotonix at The Wonder Ballroom

Back in early September I had the fortune of attending Monotonix’s show at MusicFestNW. Their short and explosive set was one of the most impactual concerts I’ve attended for a very long time. When I heard that Monotonix was returning to Portland to open for The Silver Jews I knew I had to see them again. I had to know if the show at Satyricon was some sort of anomaly. Was it just something that happened in that time and place?

It was clear from the get go that the show at the Wonder Ballroom was going to be different than Satyricon. The slightly sparse crowd was filled with thritysomething couples, out on a Tuesday night date, all of which seemed more interested in a mellow beer and music. Most of them congregated on the ‘other’ side of the OLCC beer barrier (a ridiculous regulation for all ages shows that bifurcates an audience in the worst way). The Silver Jews are a toe tapping, sway back and forth, geee aren’t they cool kind of band; so the idea of a wildly flailing and explosive Israeli punk band opening for them is an extremely unlikely paring.

As with the Satyricon show Monotonix set up their drum set out on the floor. The band entered to a few hoots and hollers. One of the guys next to me exclaimed, “This is going to blow your mind”. I wondered if that would be true. Could they blow my mind again? Would Monotonix able to catch lightening in a bottle and unleash it again and again? With their explosive start I knew from the beginning that the answer was a resounding YES.

Playing a much longer set than at Satyricon, Monotonix unleashed their music on to the fairly unsuspecting Silver Jews crowd. At one point guitarist Yonatan Gat lept across the OLCC barrier, followed by vocalist Ami Shalev who was shoved back by Wonder Ballroom security. It was the first scuffle between a band’s lead singer and security I’ve seen in years. Undaunted Ami plowed ahead taking out the barriers and one of the security guards. If punk is a state of mind vs. a musical genre, I’d submit that this scuffle was punk.

Crossing that line seemed to really engage the otherwise mellow crowd who encouraged the band. Both Avi and Yonata took to the air, floating above the crowd… It wasn’t the whole room bouncing at once experience of their Satyricon show, but a similar energy was there. Avi fond his way up onto the stage where he thrust a water battle into his pants and then pretended to ejaculate with it on one fan. He then stripped down stuffing his shirt into his shorts and proceeded to sing an Israeli folk song. Leaping off the stage the band ripped through another song, this time with their signature trash can dump over drummer Ran Shimoni.

The band then lifted the drum set and moved it to the back of the venue. Monotonix isn’t just a band that plays on the floor, the entire venue is their stage – no matter where you are, you are part of the show. Soon after Ran picked up his snare drum and ran it up to the balcony where he continued to play. Avi follows, running up onto the balcony and and then over the railing. As he balances precariously on the balcony ledge Avi yells that he’s going to jump on the count of four….and then he does. The audience catches him and he continues to belt out their final song.

There is a distinct feeling after a Monotonix show that something has happened. Monotonix brings the music off the stage and into the audience in a way that make the audience a part of the music. In may ways this is what’s been really missing with music lately. Music has become a very personal and individualized experience: people download music on to their computer, move it on to their iPod and then listen to it on their headphones. Often the only real sharing people do of their musical experience is when they snag music from Bittorrent. The reason to go see live music isn’t so YOU get to see the band in person, it’s much bigger than that. Concerts are a communal experience where the audience is just as important as the band on stage.

Most people seem to have lost sense of this communal experience. At many of the concerts I’ve been at lately I see people checking their phones, texting each other, shoe gazing, generally consuming the music without any consideration to the people around them. At a recent concert I even witnessed an event where someone almost got into a fist fight over someone singing along with the music.

There’s no question that the music industry is broken. It’s easy for people to blame record companies for the poor state of music, but I think audiences are as much to blame. Monotonix is a reminder of a time in music where music was experienced not just consumed. When the band plays from within the audience they change the dynamics, they break the personal bubbles surrounding so many of us and force you to stop watching and start participating. So many of people dance around and sing to the music when we think no one else is looking, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Concerts aren’t just spectacle, they are the shared experience of music in a deep fundamental way. When we all dance together and sing together to the same music, it connects us in a way much more powerful than adding someone as your friend on facebook or shooting them an IM. We all become a part of something bigger than ourselves and help create an experience which can only happen in that space and time.

This is why Monotonix is so important to music right now. In my mind they may be one of the MOST important things going on in music. Sure, anyone can set up their instruments on the floor and play (and maybe more bands should), but so few bands are so committed to destroying that barrier between band and audience, so committed to changing the musical experience that I think they’re worthy of being held out as an example of what should be.

Be sure to listen to my: Interview With Monotonix

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Monotonix at MusicFest NW

September 8, 2008 No comments
Monotonix at MusicFest NW

Monotonix at MusicFest NW

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

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Monotonix in Portland

September 6, 2008 No comments

Tonight MusicFest NW featured of the best shows on a stage in Portland. It was truly punk. It was crazy, wild wonderful and simply amazing.

I’ll have a complete report soon. Here’s a sampling from the show.

David Walker at Badazzmofo.com who was at the show and captured these videos:


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