Words by Phelps
Photos by Jane Briggs
I wanted to start and end this review with the title of Monotonix’ first LP – Where Were You When It Happened? – and let the photos do the talking. There’s been no shortage of photos, reviews, yea-sayers and haters since they started playing DC frequently. But, in the interest of this shit having gone down in an (almost) suburban pizza parlor and it being my inaugural experience (and their last DC show for a while,) I’ve tried to piece something together to take you there as best I can without jogging 5 miles in tighty whiteys and sitting on your face.
“Live, in a sheer ‘having fun’/spectacle way, they are mindblowing. go have fun” – Josh Sisk.
Regarding Monotonix, Josh represents one side of the polarized opinions circling the Israeli punk spazz outs while others deride their butt baring, sideshow antics as merely a distraction from subpar composition – “all shtick, no tunes.”
After Friday night, I’d say the answer lies somewhere in between. Their latest album, Not Yet, is fast-paced, catchy collection of garage rock anthems with Ami Shalev yell-singing with urgency over Yonatan Gat’s fuzzy guitar lines. Musically, it’s certainly enjoyable but the break-neck mayhem of their live sets rip the songs to pieces and regurgitate them in a cesspool of beer, sweat, hair and flying instruments.
The shift to an entirely participatory, visceral experience is going to leave you wondering what you just saw and heard, and perhaps picking up an album on the way out to help you make sense of it all later. Unfamiliar attendees like myself had the initial what-the-fuck moment as the band set up the drums in the center of the room, Shalev in your dad’s high school gym shorts and drummer Haggai Fershtman in your roommates’ ironic Budweiser swimsuit. I guess Gat could be considered conservative in a billowy white button down and daisy dukes.
From start to finish, it’s all flying drums, limbs and sweat as Shalev immediately flew into the rafters, surfed across the crowd, and bellowed unintelligible lyrics. No matter, everyone in the room was having as good a time as you possibly can while avoiding body fluids, armpits, and kicks to the face. Even Ian MacKaye cracked a smile in amused bewilderment as the band set up in three or four different spots ensuring everyone got the message or at least felt the wrath.
The crowd continually swallowed Gat and Fershtman while Shalev preened like a man possessed, breaking only a couple of times: once to awkwardly admonish a fan who “made laugh” at his English and another to declare this their last US tour to join the Israeli Army. I’m going to defer to their Drag City rep’s word on it (via Village Voice: “Reports that they are breaking up are a little exaggerated . . . What’s really going down is Haggai, the drummer, has a kid on the way, and Ami wants to spend some more time with his family, so this will be their final tour for a while.” The show continued for about 20 minutes after the dramatic setup and destruction of their drum totem as wild-eyed fans circled and attacked the remnants with their own tribal trance rhythms.
This show was at least worth the $12 and the Comet team definitely enhanced the experience with tremendous pizza, cheap beers, and side orders of whiskey shots. Somewhere between Subterranean A and DC9, they didn’t even seem too pressed when the front room started to bro-out and climb the rafters 30 minutes post-show.
I failed to heed BYT’s call to come early for the Jack White approved Pujol – well, I was there, but in the throes of a pizza and beer coma save for the last few songs. That said, the crew I was with were thoroughly dancing and enjoying the set when I made my way to the back room and the band played with plenty of energy, even while wearing pants. Check out their Listening Party here and catch them on their way back through Comet soon (overheard out front.)