Monotonix ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
The first time you see Monotonix live is a revelation. Nothing has ever seemed so spontaneously chaotic. The experience epitomizes the potential of a punk rock performance. The second time you see Monotonix live, you realize the antics that made the first show so revelatory are not in fact spontaneous. The third and fourth time you see Monotonix live, you’re figuring out what formula for chaos the band will follow. Will there be fire plus crowd surfing? Or will it be a turned over garbage can plus a microphone up Ami’s exposed ass? Perhaps, if you’re lucky, all of the above.
That’s not to say that every Monotonix show isn’t unique and exhilarating in it’s own right, they absolutely are. But, that’s not 100% because of the band. The one unknown to every Monotonix show is not Ami’s antics, but the audience. You know there’s going to be crowd surfing, shoving, and drums and drummers held aloft…what you don’t know is how the audience will react. After a handful of Monotonix shows, I’ve realized the audience is almost as much the reason to attend, as the trio from Tel Aviv themselves.
Monotonix’s September 19th all-ages show at Neumo’s was as crazy and chaotic a set as I’ve ever seen from the band. The venue was roughly half-full as far as absolute numbers, but as for what the audience brought, the room was filled to the brim. As always, the band was set up off stage and placed their gear amidst their sweaty, shoving, adoring, crowd.
The band started the set, also as they most always do, with “Ride” and Ami parting the huddled crowd like Moses did the Red Sea. “Ride” is basically the only Monotonix song you will fully hear or that the band will be able to completely play. With a dirty, funky guitar groove that begs you to shake your hips as much as shove, and with Ami’s characteristic guttural groovy growl, it’s the band’s best song. Musically, the best of Monotonix is like a sweaty orgy in some sweet smoke filled Detroit basement of the ’70s.
Monotonix isn’t about the songs though. It’s about the shows. They’re a band that sells out shows, not record shops — and in my opinion, there’s absolutely nothing wrong about that. Nor is there really a problem with the somewhat formulaic take on show antics; to a degree, the band has to do it. Everyone goes to a Monotonix show expecting, if not for, the trash can dump, the crowd surfing, the drum set held aloft, to get drinks dumped on them, for Ami’s microphone ass routine, and to see what structure he’ll climb and jump off. If one of these things don’t happen and you’ve seen Monotonix before, or the photos, you feel like you’ve missed out on a key part of the experience. I don’t imagine Ami has a checklist that he goes through in his head, but if he does, I don’t blame him.
And what more could we ask of Monotonix? To make it crazier or more spontaneous? I’m not sure any club in the country would book them if they did raise the level of their antics, else someone might get seriously hurt. At the Neumo’s show we saw people limping out with broken toes and sprained ankles. At their Sasquatch set, during the first song, when the crowd below could no longer hold him, Ami himself crashed face first into the top of the bass drum resulting in a bleeding gash across his cheek.
Though the band’s antics may not be entirely spontaneous, the audiences reaction and the intensity of their response always is. At Neumo’s, kids were crawling up the walls and jumping off the over-hangs of the door into the crowd, submerging themselves into the moshing mass before security who was climbing up after them could regroup and nab them. This night, the bouncers lived up to their name, throwing a few rowdy patrons out the doors like cartoons. All the while, the crowd continued to mosh, climb, and crowd-surf, determined to exist for a half-hour on the edge of a riotous chaos. I was certain with the level of craziness, the set would be shut down. I initially gave the Neumo’s security 5 songs. But to their credit, they let the chaos and the crowd play out, in as safe a way as possible, ejecting only the rowdiest crowd members instead of shutting down the show itself.
Abruptly and violently as the chaos starts, it stopped. With one final cymbal crash, the band is done, and crowd surfers stand on their own two feet. The men of Montonix amble around the room sharing hugs and pats on the back with their dazed and dripping fans, while collecting pieces of the scattered drum kit.
After the show, you can tell the first-timers in the audience, those standing there with a grin from ear to ear, hair matted by sweat, looking like they’d just seen the greatest show on earth. And as first timers, they probably did. Was my most recent Monotonix experience as much of an electrifying revelation as my first? No. Will any Monotonix show ever be? There’s the rub, and the reason I keep buying tickets and catch every show that I can. If anyone’s going out crazy or amaze me more than that first Monotonix show, it’s bound to be Monotonix themselves.
A Parted Sea ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Climbers ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
!!! ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
In the Balcony! ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Flickr: Monotonix, Black Eyes and Neckties at Neumos, September 19th, 2009