by Jack Diablo
First off, I was as surprised you may have been to learn that the Monotonix were scheduled to play a show at Cafe Eleven. Anyone who has ever witnessed the spectacle that is a Monotonix show certainly understands where I’m coming from.
My first experience of them was at last year’s Harvest of Hope Fest. Throughout the entire weekend, I kept hearing how stoked everyone was to see them and that I should make every effort to be there. I did, and I was not disappointed. For that performance they set up in front of rather than on stage and proceeded to kick up the most crucial dirt storm, crusty rock and roll dance party I’ve ever seen.
You see, Cafe Eleven is kind of a nice place. It’s not a grimy dive bar where anything goes and a little blood and/or vomit adds to the character. Nay, it is a place that serves four dollar beers, bistro-style food, and prohibits smoking. Just how the Monotonix were supposed to do what they do in such a venue seemed virtually impossible so I was curious to see how it would turn out.
BLORR opened the show. All I really care to say is that you will either love or hate this band. Just to be safe, it seemed like they brought quite the entourage of Jax Beach babes and bros with them, but more on that later.
It was an odd pairing to see the Monotonix split the bill with Surfer Blood but after reviewing their debut album back in December I was pretty stoked to see their live show. For one thing, the Monotonix are pretty old dudes while Surfer Blood are quite literally right out of high school. Even knowing this prior to the show, I was still surprised by just how young and baby-faced these kids looked. Nevertheless, they know how to write catchy, summery songs with enough juice to get the bleach blonde birthday party squad to crowd the stage and get into it. And I got into it too. For young kids on their first national tour, they seemed right at home although they could do a thing or two to get their own energy up. The percussionist was the most animated on stage and the others could take a tip or two from the way he expresses himself. From what I picked up, it seems like Surfer Blood is the kind of band that just about anybody can get down with and I have no doubt they will leave good impressions everywhere they go.
At this point I half-expected the Monotonix to gauge the crowd, recognize how nice a place Cafe Eleven is and be on their best behavior. When I got to visualizing them on stage, I realized I couldn’t think of a single lyric or riff from a single song. I could visualize the show I had seen but couldn’t remember for the life of me what they sounded like. It made me question whether they were really any good as musicians rather than simply great stage performers. And does that even matter?
Luckily the Monotonix, to borrow a phrase, give no f*cks and set their equipment up right there on the floor from the very beginning. The crowd gathered and the shoving match to be right up in the brouhaha began before the music even started. Since they weren’t on stage, the members of the audience who weren’t front and center had to get creative and climb things to gain a better vantage point. The distortion started and as I had predicted Ami, the spry 45 year-old singer was indeed climbing like a monkey across the rafters. The rest of the concert followed the Monotonix usual schtick, which although predictable at times, remains wildly entertaining and exciting for everyone involved. The band relocated several times with the help of the audience carrying drums and pulling cable and even once, crowd-surfing the floor tom and Ami as he beat a rhythm. At one point the drummer was in the middle of the crowd, Ami was perched in a squat on the bar and the guitarist was nowhere to be seen. Around this point a crowd-surfing girl came out of nowhere knocking my glasses off and up into the sea of hands and hair. I watched in slow-motion as they flew just out of my reach and spent the next few minutes frantically pushing feet out of the way to search for them. I’m not kidding when I say that I’m about as bad as Velma from Scooby Doo without my glasses but it didn’t take long for me to accept the fact that they were gone and I was lucky that I hadn’t driven. Normally I keep it pretty reserved in wild crowds for this very reason but since they were gone anyway and let it all out.
Not long afterwards came the time of the show in which the entire audience is forced to sit and repeatedly told to “shut up!” until everyone complies at which point Ami delivers his sermon in broken English. Strutting on stage he commented on the fact that no American 45 year-old can do what he does nor boasts a body like his. Even though it makes little to no sense, his rhetoric is inspiring and the entire crowd roared with applause at the climax of the speech when he made us all promise to “never stop looking about the future!” Our brief rest was over and when the next chord was struck, the place erupted even more so then before.
Originally I figured that seeing them in an open-air setting would be the most ideal way to see these guys but they have a way of using the very restrictions that hold them back in their favor. Before the last song, the band was paraded out the door and into the parking lot. I remained behind for a minute to take advantage of the empty venue and search for the remains of my lost glasses. Everything was still plugged in and the guitar was still coming through the house even though everyone was outside. I found a friend of mine who works there and told him of my plight. Not even a minute later he returned from the complete opposite end of the room with my glasses in hand. Untouched. It was truly a miracle.
Unfortunately Ami didn’t have such luck. Shortly after the St. Augustine show, he broke his leg while playing for Surfer Blood’s hometown audience in West Palm Beach and for the first time ever had to stop the show. As the band reported on their myspace page, “we never stopped a show in 700 shows, but yesterday it seemed like we should.” Ami is recovering just fine and plans to hit the road again in March. Maybe he’ll take it easy this time, but somehow I doubt it.
Show Review: Monotonix, Surfer Blood and BLORR
by Jack Diablo