MONO @ LARIMER LOUNGE | 9/27/12
Mono's entire set felt like a grand meditation on the interconnectedness of patterns from the tides coming in and out daily in step with the tides of the moon, and changing in character with the changing of the seasons. The flow and evolving levels of sonic density and intensity between the two guitars, the sensitivity of the percussion to the shifting dynamics and the use of both bass and piano to set the pace felt like music for an entire year compressed into a hyper real experience inside ninety minutes and maybe ten distinct songs.
At the beginning of the set, Mono displayed a superb, organic crescendo with sprawling sounds that evoked water gently lapping at the beach and increasing in volume until water rose to the rocks, crashing into them as at high tide. For this show there was a symphonic character to the music as the members of Mono didn't make use of hackneyed rock theatrics. Instead, in quiet moments, the music recalled the paradoxically excellent music composed for Japanese soap operas during especially melodramatic moments in the show -- almost sturm und drang but elegantly executed and melodramatic in the older sense evoked by Jim Morrison and the ancient Greek playwrights, rather than in the often cheapened modern sense of the word.
Takaakira Goto and Hideki Suematsu kneeled at the floor to manipulate their guitar pedals throughout the show, though both were clearly swept up in the moment, and Suematsu could be seen raising his arm high to bring it down repeatedly to strike the strings with the right force to elicit a fiery noise. Tamaki Kunishi switched between bass and piano, and her creative bass playing ran the gamut of tone from liquid tones to angular textures, all while propelling the music forward.
Two songs from the end, it felt like an appropriate place to close the set because the band had escalated the music into a heady burst of sounds coming together and making your heart soar with the sheer gravity and sense of elation. But that was just a precursor to a final song that took us on that irresistible journey to a plateau of sound and emotion, only to be knocked onto another level with beautiful eruptions of guitar sound that seemed to rip the sky open with finely sculpted feedback. The band had no microphones and could only engage the audience with gestures. At the end when the cheers lingered, they graciously stood up and shyly bowed before leaving stage. No surprise, but amusing for a group of people who created such a panoramic set of powerful music.
Chris Brokaw opened the show and, though surrounded by the fairly rock and roll rig of Mono, he played just guitar, acoustic and electric, and sang. With some wry humor, Brokaw played a set of music that covered a broad range of sounds and sentiments with a rare intimacy and honesty considering the environment. He covered a pretty broad spectrum of his career, including an instrumental from Red Cities, and a real treat, "Into the Woods" from The Boarder's Door.
Every song showcased a different mood, a different texture and a different style, whether Brokaw was playing his acoustic or his electric. Brokaw's gift for subtle but powerful expression shone through, even when he used distortion to give the guitar a sharper and more aggressive sound. It was like he was able to speak directly to your own experiences in various situations, without judgment, and able to express tender sensibilities as well as less charitable thoughts. A very humble and compelling performance that even drew in people who were not familiar with his work. Safe to say Brokaw won over some new fans tonight.
Personal Bias: Chris Brokaw has been involved in more than a bit of my favorite music for the last twenty plus years. Mono sets a pretty high bar for instrumental songwriting in my book.
Random Detail: Brokaw had vinyl of both Frigid Stars and Barely Real at his merch table. The former I've seen at Wax Trax Records and at Twist and Shout but the latter, not so much.
By the Way: This crowd was really cool to both Brokaw and Mono.
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