January 2nd, 2009 5:33 pm | by NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL Music | Posted In: Columns, Live Cuts, Columns

Monotonix at the East End, Tuesday, December 30th

IMG_2367First thing's first: Did Montonix's show on Tuesday night match the glory of the trio's MFNW set back in early September (a raging, almost violent show that wound up with the band members hanging from trees in front of Satyricon, their instruments floating in the crowd's hands)? Not quite. But did this time around at East End out-do its previously most recent Rose City set in support of the Silver Jews at the Wonder Ballroom at the end of September? You betcha.

The staff at East End didn't seem totally clued into the Israeli rockers' antics—Monotonix shows are known for devolving into complete chaos—but they were totally down with them. Yeah, there were moments where the faces of the staff looked a little pained...say when frontman Ami Shalev attempted to hang from a lighting beam. That was a no-no, but discouraged by the mere shake of a head or the gentle prying off of fingers, rather than sucker punches like the security at Wonder Ballroom previously doled out. Wait, maybe we should start at the beginning.

Though two posters stood in testament to Tuesday's Panache Booking showcase gig, neither of them mentioned a start time. The East End's web calendar was similarly barren of a kick-off hour. Making my way into the venue at half past nine, I peaked downstairs to see a crowd amassed in front of the still-locked doors leading to the performance space. By 10 pm, the crowd was free to flow in, either to exchange tickets for stamps on the inside of their wrist or to pay $12 for the same privilege if they hadn't made their purchase in advance. Well that system only worked for so long—a stretch of a few minutes before it was declared a sold-out affair. Loads of would-be revelers still congregated at the doorway were instantly shut out, a far cry from the turnout at Wonder Ballroom where there was only a moderately sized crowd. Granted, that venue's quite a bit bigger, but the Wonder crowd also seemed to be there solely for Silver Jews and relatively unaware of the Monotonix mystique. This time, it was all about Monotonix. A round of indiscreet hustling—stamped wrists pressing against bare wrists—commenced in the foyer area, allowing the capacity of the underground room to billow to hazardous and beyond humid levels.

After Salem's Thrones inaugurated the evening's live festivities and Panther flung itself through a set heavy on new songs, Monotonix took to its makeshift stage. By now it was well past midnight. In larger rooms, the trio's distance from the real stage is much more sizable and obvious, but in the close confines of the East End, the group may as well have been playing on the stage. Instantly the contents of beer cans around the room found their way into the air as mayhem was declared the moment the first chord of "Ride" was strummed. Shalev was quickly in the air, surfing the crowd inside of his garbage can vessel, and within seconds of that, the crotch of his leotard became undone and his shorts slid down. Wouldn't be the only time we saw his butt that night...as is to be expected.

Once he returned to the stage, he tried to gain balance by way of the lighting beam but was instantly discouraged by protective staff staked out alongside the band. So Shalev bared his backside intentionally while pressing drummer Haggai Fershtman's head into his abyss. Oh the pleasantries these Israelis bring. After that diversion it was time for more crowd-surfing. Ami wound his way over near the bar to empty the contents of a few more drinks onto willing participants' heads. Eventually the whole band made its way over to the bar, setting up shop on top of it to continue peddling its fuzzy Zeppelin-esque rifts and rock. First the drum-kit was labored over, piece by piece, and then came Haggai with his drum sticks. Guitarist Yonatan Gat climbed his way on, too, to strike Prince-like guitar god poses while remaining in tune, while Shalev took up residency between the pair for more hell-raising. While this went on, the real show was watching as people continued to order drinks from the overwhelmed bar staff who didn't let on one bit to any amusement. But not fright either. They remained placid, trying to watch out for the band while at the same time fulfilling demands for alcohol. Dollar bills amassed on the counter, of little concern in the grand scheme of tonight's activities.


During the whole show there was palpable anticipation that the great outdoors were only minutes away, that the band would break down its set-up and encourage an awaiting audience to shuttle it to the corner of SE Grand so everything could continue outside in the rain. That notion was continually rejected without any direct denial in the sweltering sauna-like atmosphere. Mid-way through the set, the musical portion of the show began to falter as the songs became a little more disjointed, though at least one was introduced as being "new," so that could help explain things.

In time for the finale, the band asked everyone to sit down. In the midst of the tried and true spiel, Ami asked for west coasters to shout out, then for east coasters to do the same, then scolded the west coasters for being the less vocal half on their own turf by asking if we were going to let the east coasters out-shout us. Trying to start some rivalry ala 2Pac and Biggie, kind/crazy Sir? The band carried out its usual countdown for everyone to jump back up and the boisterous audience swirled onto its feet and into a flurry, the instruments beginning to make their way out of the venue. Time for the outdoor segment of the show? That'd be a no. The first person with a piece of the drumkit passed it off to a confused bystander in the foyer the moment he'd made it out of the sweaty little room. Eventually some people followed behind him and actually followed through on the deal, bringing the ride cymbal all the way to street level. Soon the majority of the drum-kit was positioned in the wheel-chair lip of the sidewalk, but still no band. Not for quite some time. Eventually Fershtman appeared and appeased the assembled on lookers by pounding it out for about a minute. Fist pumps arose. And then it was over.




Complete photo set:

Panache Booking

Photos by Nilina Mason-Campbell
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