Movies, television and music videos never seem to get dancing right. On film, I've never seen mosh pits ever evoke the same sense of unpredictability as they do in real life, just as, much to my dismay, I've never been to a house party where everyone was dancing (much less with the excitement and vigor of the film "House Party") like they appear on film. That said, seeing Monotonix perform in Toronto's modestly sized Wrongbar was the closest approximation to being in the famous, Samuel Bayer-directed music video for Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" I will likely ever be a part of. No cheerleaders and a lot less flannel, but the similarities were many.
The main attraction and my primary reason for going was Monotonix's growing reputation for insane live performances. When a trusted friend described it as "Andrew WK-ian," I knew it was something I had to see for myself, and when the show's promoter told me that four police cars showed up to the chaotic show the night before in Halifax, my suspicions were confirmed: We were in for something.
Opening up was female-fronted bass/drums duo Lullabye Arkestra, who deserve a shout-out for their stage setup alone, using backlighting and dry ice for maximum effect. The crowd seemed to warm up to their monstrous bass sound and Brodie Dalle-esque vocals, but soon grew restless for the Israelis everyone came for. The band finished before their warm welcome was worn out, and the room's excitement was palpable as we waited for what seemed like an eternity for the next band to take the stage.
Monotonix opted to set up on the floor, with the crowd making a circle around them. Seconds after the start of the band's set, singer Ami Shalev was already being passed around the crowd like a singing beach ball, full beers were thrown into the air, guitarist Yonatan Gat took refuge on top of his amplifier and the crowd lurched forward and fell back in waves. We weren't in Kansas anymore.
Through the course of the show a trashcan was introduced, which was played on drummer Haggai Fershman's head before being thrown into the crowd; then a cymbal made the rounds along with several members of the crowd. At some point the bass drum was liberated from the drumkit, which was thrown around from side to side as the beat was kept with only a snare drum. Soon after, Ami then got on top, still in the hands of the crowd, and sang while standing atop the bass drum. Incredibly, through all this, the music was constant and intense.
The finale to their short set (only about 25 minutes) came when vocalist Ami headed towards the front exit of the club, and as if following a pied piper, the crowd followed, clearing the entire club out along with the entirety of the drumset into the crisp night of Toronto's Queen west.
The set continued outside (sans guitar); the beat kept going, the crowd was chanting and Ami scaled a lightpost and sang from atop the sign of a neighboring business. The cops began to show up just as he dove off the awning into the crowd, who were loving every minute. Once the police presence got larger, the crowd disbursed (many trying to get back into the club, who in the melee had locked their doors) and the night was over. The short burst of pure rock ridiculousness had come to an abrupt but memorable end.
If you were to draw a picture of the performance, it would just be a big jumbly line with arms, bass drums and beer sticking out. But, like all good showmen, they left everyone wanting more.