Johnny Siera upstaged: F Yeah! Tour feat. The Death Set, Matt and Kim, Monotonix, Team Robespierre @ Sonar
All photos: the esteemed Josh Sisk
“FUCK YEA!”–both the name of the tour, and my general impression of the night.
Though The Death Set were the only band actually hailing from Baltimore, I felt the rest of the groups (excluding one) were honorary Baltimoreans for the night. Monotonix have played here often, and recently. They share the intensity, and the weirdo aesthetic of our town. Kim Schifino, of Matt and Kim, said the city was beginning to feel like home.
“Honestly, for a second, I thought we were in Brooklyn. You just keep seeing people at every show. It’s like ‘Oh, yea, it’s that person,’” Kim said (Aural States then explained the Smalltimore effect to her).
Now the exclusion. I’ve known Baltimore all my life, and Team Robespierre, ladies and gentleman, is definitely not Baltimore. Out of the many adjectives I can think of to describe this city, and the music it generates, I would not pick the word “boring.” But after seeing Team Robespierre for the second time, “boring” tops the list of descriptors. At one point I thought to myself “Is this the best Brooklyn has to offer?” Than I remembered Matt and Kim, and Brooklyn’s rep was redeemed.
Team Robespierre, more or less, follows the same template of Death Set, and Matt and Kim–punk infused with electronics–though at a slower tempo, and with none of the same feeling. TR relies heavily on prerecords, and I wonder if playing more synths live would lift the band out of their musical malaise of mediocrity. I actually wonder if the band has enough musical chops not to limp along on the prerecord crutch.
Just about every show I go to I overhear great musical critiques from other audience members in between songs. My favorite for the night was: “Man, that drummer sounds more like a drum machine than most drum loops.” Hahaha. But there is a point to that comment. If you’re going to phone in a performance, why not just have a drum machine. In fact, I think some 909 and 808 action would prove interesting, and differentiate TR from the pack.
One band that will never be accused of a phoned in performance, and the band up next in the lineup, was Monotonix from Israel. I’ve heard that their live show is ridiculous, but all those reports came from people out of town. I work under the assumption, perhaps false, that if you’re not from Baltimore, the bar for insane live shows is pretty low.
Though I had a strong suspicion things would get insane just by looking at singer Ami Shalev. He’s small and wiry, with long curly hair, graying beard, and dark leathery skin. He looks like Charles Manson coming out of the desert. Shit was confirmed when he climbed up into the lighting supports and hung there upside down, and let out a metal roar.
If you want to liken a show to theater, then Monotonix has clearly never even heard of a fourth wall. Shit, I don’t think they know what a stage is, but I loved it all.
Sometimes people like to close their eyes and listen to the music. You can’t do that with this band, because when you open them up there will be a shirtless Israeli madman in you face. And if not that, then someone else’s elbow.
Ami was insane. Let’s just list some of the things he did that night:
1. Moon the crowd, and then run the mic up and down his asscrack.
2. Empty a trash can on to the drummer, glass bottles and all.
3. Jump atop the bar and toss people’s drinks, bar napkins, ice, anything not bolted down to the table.
4. You get picture.
Some people were slightly intimidated and kept to the back of the room. Monotonix’s response, then, was to move their setup to the back of the room, drum kit and all. So then, the people displaced by the ruckus moved to the bar. Again Monotonix followed.
I got a huge kick out of it all. I enjoyed the ambulatory interlude played during each move. I guess it broke the set up into movements, so to speak. In a way it reminded me of the Promenade interludes in Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
Some said Monotonix’s antics were over the top, I say this is not so. They had the Death Set to compete with for most intense live show of the tour. Besides, after the Team Robespierre set I needed something to wake myself up.
After the set, going outside to get some fresh air, I overheard a club bouncer telling a door bouncer, “Shit was insane. Fucking insane. I’ve never seen shit like that.”
I asked Ami if Monotonix just wigs out and tries to fuck shit up. He said no, that there is a method to the madness, and that they are more in control then they seem…kind of.
“We try not to lose equipment because it is very expensive. But everything has broken–the amps, the guitar, the drum set… We’re not trying to destroy everything, but we want to give people that feeling that they can do what they want, to lose their mind, but not being violent,” said Ami.
In sharp contrast to Monotonix was Matt and Kim, two people who are definitely not going to leap into the rafters and the moon the audience. Instead they radiate sonic sunshine onto the audience with their gee-golly smiles.
Their set was cut short due to time constraints stemming from a late arrival.
“We’re were supposed to leave New York at 11:30 in the morning. We didn’t end up leaving until 5. First of all, no matter what, you’re always late for the first show of the tour. Shit happens…The bus was coming from LA, and it left Philly at 10, but it just kept getting pushed back. We had all these people at our house waiting, and we were like ‘It’s going to be here in half an hour,’ and an hour later, ‘It’s going to be here in half an hour,’” said Kim.
She also pointed out that the tour bus is “veggie diesel,” and that she thinks rising gas prices will seriously effect the touring ability of up and coming bands.
“When Matt and I started we didn’t have a CD out. It was just the two of us in a minivan going across the country. If gas prices were as high as they are now, we probably wouldn’t have done it. It’s kind of sad if bands can’t get out there,” said Kim.
It’s so much fun watching people having fun and playing fun music. FUN! SMILES! HAPPY! That about sums up the Matt and Kim set.
On to the Death Set. Aural States has given Johnny and crew rave reviews before, so I can just give some lip service here. Unfortunately, this time the Death Set was slightly underwhelming. The crowd was a lot more tame than I expected. That complete over-the-top energy was missing. Personally, I think Monotonix stole their thunder, and the crowd was too young. It’s hard to freak-the-fuck-out when a 16 year old Kimmy Gibbler look-alike is standing next you. I know Cullen makes an effort to make shows all ages, but it’s odd with the under 18, X-hands crew hanging out next to you.
The Death Set was still amazing, but just not the normal unbridled energy coming from them. But how often do they crush it out of the park? A double every now and then ain’t bad.
For me the night was all about Monotonix. It would be interesting to see which band can maintain the highest intensity level throughout the tour. I’m gonna bet on the Israeli madman.
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