[Above picture is not from this show, although what's pictured above definitely happened at this show.]
So I'm feeling content and rested after a weekend trip to Charlotte for a buddy's combination birthday/engagement/finished law school/passed-the-bar party. What better way to celebrate returning to blue state territory than going to see some good ol' fashioned performance art?
I caught Monotonix' set in late July at Bowery Ballroom when they played with Early Man, and even though I left before the headliner (Violent Thorr)'s set, that was easily one of the top 15 shows I've seen this year. If you're in the market for insane stage antics (more on this later), then I'd highly suggest checking these bastards out before they get deported for severely injuring themselves / crowdmembers or accidentally burning an underground venue down.
I'm a bit ashamed to admit that this was my first time at Death by Audio, considering that I've lived less than 10 blocks away from it for the last four months. This means that my only real previous exposure to DbA was the Pitchfork.tv piece on A Place to Bury Strangers (Death by Audio is also the name of APTBS frontdude Oliver Ackermann's distortion pedal business). When I showed up 9ish, there were few signs of what was to come; at that point the performance space was largely empty and the "back room" (slightly smaller than the performance area) was populated by 12 or so bored looking hipsters watching an inscrutably arty film which was projected on the wall. I bought a coupla cans of Busch and settled in.
Apparently one of the evening's bands had cancelled, so I have to presume that the first band that actually played was a last minute fill-in. Didn't catch their name, but they were a two-piece with kind of a typical early hardcore sound with superfast drumming/riffs and barked vocals, but with a more muddled guitar sound than I'm used to with shouty hardcore stuff. Kinda generic fare to be honest.
I got hungry (and gassy) so I walked down to the crappy Chinese place at the corner of Bedford and South 2nd. A few minutes after ordering the curry chicken, I was handed a box of something covered with a brown sauce. I pointed out to the woman behind the counter that there was no way that what she had given me was actually curry chicken, but she disagreed. Fair enough - after all, the customer isn't necessarily always right. Didn't feel like making a stink so I ate up and got the eff out of dodge.
Before the show I had noticed at least one of the dudes from Ex Models walking around, and by the time I got back to DbA after polishing off the fake curry, I noticed said dude was onstage, and his band was halfway through their set. As it turned out these guys were called Knyfe Hyts and they're apparently an Ex Models side project. I enjoyed the Ex Models set I caught when they opened up for Deerhunter last July, and I must say I liked what I heard of Knyfe Hyts even better: they've abandoned the hardcore-ish tendencies of Ex Models, replacing that with somewhat kinda garagey stoner metal type stuff, while retaining Ex Models' krautrockish persistence and no-wave artiness. Highlight for me was the loooooong set closer which consisted of basically one note repeated for about 10 minutes with some discoish high hat shit going on. Very danceable and kinda awesome. The tokers in the room took this as their cue to fire that shit up, and understandably so.
Monotonix was up next, and these guys know how to fuckin' party! The set itself, like any great/terrible blackout, is a bit hazy as to the actual order in which stuff happened. Suffice it to say that the actual music is merely incidental; even if the tunes were great -- which they're definitely not -- it would be tough to concentrate on the music whenyou're actually fearing for your own safety. If you haven't seen them live and don't want spoilers, DON'T READ THE RED INK BELOW.
Okay. I feel bullet points are in order. The following happened:
- Pre set, it was somewhat sheepishly announced that "these guys set a lot of fires so be careful." Sure enough, the drummer dude began the set by setting his cymbals and sticks ablaze and thrashing about.
- I should mention that like Lightning Bolt, Monotonix refuses to perform onstage. Unlike Lightning Bolt, Monotonix' singer spends a good part of the set dumping the room's garbage cans over the drummer's head.
- Said garbage cans had many uses, with my favorite being when the singer actually hopped in one and crowdsurfed about the room. My least favorite was when the crowd began chucking the cans across the room. Normally repelling a giant garbage can isn't too big of a chore, but with the number of flashes going off in the room I could barely tell what the fuck was going on. CONK!
- The drummer seems to endure the most abuse but manages to maintain a reasonably steady beat despite being pretty much defenseless against the onslaughts of the crowd and his bandmembers. Several times actual pieces of his kit were dragged across the room, necessitating several impromptu changes of scenery during the set.
- At one point, the crowd wrestled the bass drum away, and next thing I know the drummer (who has to be about 6'4") is sailing over the crowd while sitting on the bass drum, and still somehow keeping the beat.
- By the end of the set, the band had been carried off along with their equipment into the smaller room before leading the crowd in an a capella rendition of Queen's "We Will Rock You." Frickin' hilarious.
Well, there you have it. If you think any of the antics described above are hilarious, then I have at least one thing in common with you. See you tonight at (le) poisson rouge for Deerhunter.