To describe Monotonix’s live shows as organized chaos would be misleading. This band’s performances are absolute mayhem — and concertgoers eat it up with a spoon.
And the critics haven’t held back their praise either. Spin called Monotonix, a Tel Aviv-raised garage rock threesome comprised of Ami Shalev, Yonatan Gat and Haggai Fershtman, the “most exciting band in rock ‘n’ roll” back in June.
Since then, Monotonix’s star has been fast rising, and the band’s popularity has grown not only across the globe, but also right here in Madison.
“We played a show in Madison probably a year before [Forward Fest], and there were five people in the audience,” Monotonix’s guitarist Gat said while en route to the band’s first tour stop in Texas. “And then we played the festival, and that was really fun.”
While the band’s heightened fame — or even infamy — could be attributed to its steady work ethic (the trio has played more than 500 shows since it formed in 2005), it is Monotonix’s raucous live shows that have practically made the band legendary on the touring circuit.
A standard performance for the band may consist of stealing audience members’ drinks; racing around a concert hall, corded mic in hand; or hoisting percussionist Haggai Fershtman eight feet in the air while drumming. And on rare occasions, Monotonix’s members may even light themselves on fire — but only if you’re lucky.
Despite this seemingly complicated process, this chaos was born from a simple concept.
“We played like a normal show on stage … and it was kinda not fun, and then we figured ‘Let’s just take it to the floor,’” Gat said. “And we did, and that was the first show that we did in Tel Aviv, and it was really special. So, we just continued doing it and doing it and doing it, and now we’re three years and 500 shows later.”
And while most concertgoers would certainly not be keen about having their drinks spit in their faces, Gat said most who attend the band’s shows do not seem to mind Monotonix’s over-the-top antics.
“[One] person asked me to get his girlfriend a beer after our singer took his beer and poured it on himself. So I gave him a drink ticket and he got himself a beer. It’s very friendly natured. I guess you’d have to be there to know. It’s not like the hardcore shows of the ’80s.”
Either way, with Monotonix, you may go for the show, but you stay for the music, which can easily be described as a combination of the swagger and sass of 1960s hard rock pioneers MC5 and proto-punk rockers Iggy and the Stooges with just a dash of sex appeal thrown in for good measure. The band’s EP, Body Language, incorporates all of these elements with its sky-high guitar riffs, percussive clashes and sneering vocals.
Despite the easy comparisons to early hard rock, Monotonix doesn’t look to these groups for inspiration. Instead, the band’s home country of Israel serves as a partial muse for the band’s frenzied tunes.
“What inspires us is everything, especially the things that happen to us back home in Israel — I mean, not the political things,” Monotonix’s singer Ami Shalev said. “… It’s a different culture from here. … So, we got a different vibe, and we try to put it into our shows. That’s what inspires us the most in our shows. Not in the politics or in an angry way about things in Israel; we don’t deal with politics or anything like that. All it is is a vibe about a simple or common people in Israel.”
Those who attend tonight’s performance at the High Noon Saloon can expect a somewhat different show compared to last September’s at Forward Fest.
“We’re excited ’cause we’re going to play a lot of new songs. Basically, we’ve been playing the same songs for a few years,” Gat said, adding, “The first songs we wrote … I don’t want to say bad things about the old songs. You know, I like them, I like the EP, but it’s just different. I think it’s going to be much more fun playing those songs live than the old songs. They fit our show much better.”
Monotonix will play the High Noon Saloon tonight at 9 p.m. with openers Call Me Lightning and JUICEBOXXX. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 day of show and are available at B-Side Records, Mad City Music Exchange, Strictly Discs and the High Noon Saloon.