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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Monotonix w/ Call Me Lightning @ The Bay View VFW Post

April 20, 2010

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The Bay View VFW Post is best known for mozzarella sticks and weekend karaoke hosted by Bay View’s older crooners—not exactly the epitome of wild and crazy. So when wild and crazy comes knocking at one’s door in the form of Monotonix, three Israeli men who seem unassuming given their ages (singer Ami Shalev is 44), one isn’t in complete realization until everything is at an all-encompassing, dreamlike state. Motionless abandonment, even complete unawareness, seemed to surround the venue as the wildness and hilarity escalated last Tuesday evening. Good thing the all-ages crowd was anything but asleep.


Leading off the build-up was Centipedes, a local four-piece who made good use of aggressive percussion and sung, not shouted, vocals—their feet half in hardcore, half in melodic rock—made for an absorbing opening set. Spazzy electro trio Terrior Bute threw all their energy into their danceable sounds, as the crowd moved in closer to catch the keyboard manipulations and bop around. Vocalist/keyboard player Jeff Graupner’s yelp-y screams cut in and out from his frazzled mic, but the trio bashed through the technical troubles with an “oh well” attitude to turn out a solid performance. Rock trio Call Me Lightning followed suit by playing their newer material with precision and ease to a receptive crowd. Shane Hochstetler bashed his drum kit with confidence, while guitarist/vocalist Nathan Lilley executed his trademark howled vocals, occasionally hitting harmonies with newly recruited bassist/vocalist Tyler Chicorel.

The came Monotonix. Before the set, the crowd milled outside to smoke and downstairs to chat, while Shalev was busy measuring out the distance his microphone cord would travel. It went all the way to the back bleacher seats, where many people had spent the night trying to get a better view over the crowd or act as a mere spectator, but Monotonix shows never have mere spectators.

Drummer Haggai Fershtman set up a red carpet on the VFW floor near the middle of the room, placing his bass drum, snare and cymbals accordingly. That carpet would later serve as a vehicle for those instruments, one that wouldn’t stay in place for any longer than five minutes. Shalev, wearing a pair of tiny burgundy shorts and a knee brace (he broke his leg at a Florida show in January) grabbed his mic, shook his wild mane and off they went. The crowd encircled the trio, Shalev and Fershtman in constant motion, guitarist Yonatan Gat coolly crunching into his guitar to create a mess of sound that was Thin Lizzy, Gogol Bordello and Led Zeppelin all in one.

Those familiar with the band’s material from their 2008 EP Body Language and 2009’s Where Were You When it Happened must have recognized some of the songs pouring out of the three hairy and increasingly sweaty musicians, but that didn’t seem to be the point. The point was to participate. Shalev and drums traveled to the back of the room, Gat following with his guitar, all while playing. Shalev, shouting into the mic, thick-accented and gregarious, jumped onto the bleachers to hang out next to a couple slightly unnerved audience members, the rest of the crowd clamoring and shoving at his feet.

Without notice, Shalev jumped down, ran across the room as best he could through the crowd, and jumped into the other bleachers. The Pied Piper tactics had everyone at his feet once again and Shalev was greeted warmly on the other side, one audience member shoving his beer down Shalev’s throat. Shalev downed most of it and threw the rest into the crowd. Things got even more sweaty and raucous as Shalev again moved the operation and set up camp, getting the crowd to hoist him up on Fershtman’s bass drum. There Shalev stayed for the entire song, waving and hitting his drum sticks from his mid-air perch. As a prelude to a finale, the trio moved to the “proper” venue stage and called audience members to come and dance with Fershtman and yanked an eager young drummer out of the crowd to sit in on a song. Shalev, leading into what seemed to be a folk ballad, had the volunteer drummer confused at where to dig in, but suddenly Gat swung into a raunchy rock riff and the volunteer followed suit, crashing out an admirable and unplanned moment in song.

The band appeared to be winding down, visibly sweaty and a bit weary. This was the spark for the most energetic moment of the night, when the band led literally the entire crowd outside into Kinnickinnic Avenue, playing in the chilly spring air for almost an entire song. Gat sauntered back inside first, his guitar cord trailing after him, and Shalev and Fershtman followed, the Milwaukee crowd in high spirits and genuine appreciation of the spectacle. The quiet after the show was nearly unsettling. The VFW, in a state of New Year’s Eve aftermath, had cups strewn about like confetti and the tired but satisfied atmosphere of witnessing a display of slightly organized chaos, where every day is New Year’s for Monotonix.