Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mono - Live In Iowa City

Now with the band's newest member, a can of Miller High Life

On the way down to see Mono in Iowa City on Sunday night, I returned a call to my parents. They were leaving Iowa for several weeks to fly down to their home in Arizona, where the majority of my immediate family has begun to establish roots.

They told me that one of their cats died unexpectedly on Friday. My Mom is a big cat lover, but now three of her four cats have died in as many years and she gets distraught about things like that.

The point of all this-as if there is one-was to bring up a conversation with my father while we talked on the phone. I explained that I was driving to Iowa City to check out the band Mono. This lead to telling him who the band “Mono” was, and this inevitably led to a discussion of their country of origin (Japan).

Then came the “What kind of music do they play?” question, to which I began to tell my Dad, a man who just turned 66 a few weeks ago, all about the “post-rock” genre and how the most notable of those bands ended up scoring the music to the television show Friday Night Lights.

I could have reminded him that they are similar to a band I saw a few years ago called Godspeed You Black Emperor!, but that would be as pointless as him trying to tell me how good Neil Diamond’s Beautiful Noise album was.

Finally, I left it as “It’s not very often that a rock band from Japan ends up playing in Iowa” and he seemed pretty satisfied with that explanation, leaving my discussion of the entire “post-rock” genre as a piece of ancient history.

I’ll spare you the discussion too, even though this is probably a more appropriate venue for it, but let me quickly set up the night as a much-needed stress-relief evening where Mono were supposed to come into town and beat all of my real-world dramas into sonic submission.

And the great thing about it was that the doors opened at 7:00pm.

Yes, early shows are the way to go for working stiffs with a family like yours truly, but I have a feeling that the real reason was the exact opposite: it was a method into tapping into the “19-21” crowd, thereby bringing the patron total up a bit for this early evening, Sunday night show.

I arrive a little later, we’ll call it 7:15pm, where I buy my ticket and people watch until they let the dozen or so devotees upstairs to the stage area. The ticket guy tells me they’re still finishing up soundcheck, of which I can hear the sounds of layered guitars making its way down the stairs along with an unmistakable sound of a timpani.

How this Japanese quartet lugged up a timpani up those stairs in back is beyond me, but I’m excited at the prospect and casually eavesdrop on some of the conversations surrounding me.
There’s the chick in the Mono shirt who incredulously asks another “So you’ve never seen them live?” There’s the dude who drove four hours by himself to see the band, I believe from Illinois. There’s the boyfriend who asks his girlfriend, “Are you ready to get your mind blown?”

Then there’s me who wonders “When the fuck are they going to let us in?”  It’s obvious that there won’t be a big crowd for the show, so who really cares if we get to see the man (and woman) behind the curtain? We’re already hearing it, so let us in!

The story goes that the band arrived late, to which I don’t understand in the days when GPS devices are as common as a smart phone and the fact that Iowa City isn’t that big of a town.

One couple, the one where the Mono t-shirt wearing chick is a part of, tells the story of how they came early, went upstairs because there was no one working the door, only to find the band bringing in their gear while a staff member shoo’ed them back downstairs.

Maybe it was a problem with the van, but all I know was that it was at least an hour before they finally let the crowd of a dozen or so up the stairs so that we could endure a pair of opening sets by Alex Body and Chris Brokaw. I had no idea who Alex Body was, but Brokaw I recognized through the bands Come and the totally underrated Consonant, the project with Clint Conley created before Mission of Burma got started again.

Regardless, this “early show” was turning into a “much later show,” and the idea of going to work the next day exhausted was not sitting well with me. The stage was already full of gear, so imagine my surprise when someone starts setting up a table full of electronic equipment directly in front of the stage.

Ladies and gentlemen, this must be our opener, Alex Body.

I’ll write more about him later, but I have experienced this same kind of set up in previous gigs and all of them have had nothing but dismal results. Why Gabe’s does this is beyond me, but it’s amateurish and a complete momentum killer. I don’t want to see some last minute local act if you’re not going to provide them with some respect so that they have some time to set up beforehand and to at least allow them to perform on stage like a real artist. If it doesn’t fit, then don’t book it.

My blood began to boil. I wanted a refund. I wanted to go home. I went out to my car and took a quick nap.

Take that, Alex Body!
When I returned, Chris Brokaw was finishing his set, but at least I was calm and rested for the headliners. Brokaw was on stage with only an electric guitar and a microphone, which I’m guessing is his bag now, so I can’t say that I was really that bummed that I missed his set.

I grabbed another ginger ale, which they totally make at the bar at Gabe’s, and began hearing entrance music. This was strange as the attendees now numbered only around a few dozen, so it was without any effort that I cozied up to the stage for an immediate view.

Off to the side of the stage is a dark hallway that leads to an outside door. This is where the bands load their gear in, but as the music on the p.a. continued to play, I saw four Japanese people standing together at the end of the hall by the doorway.

It was Mono, silently waiting for the obligatory moment in their opening music to walk up the stage. It was a bit off-putting, watching them stand in silence and in the dark, only to begin to briskly walk behind the crowd so that they could walk up to the stage, when all they really needed to do was to walk in front of me and a couple of other runts just to reach the stage quicker.

But whatever; within moments the gentle strums of guitars and the slow-paced drums signaled another lesson in dynamics as things were about to go from soft to loud for the rest of the night.

Guitarists Takaakira Goto and Hideki “Yoda” Suematsu kept things ebbing and flowing all night, coming up with some memorable endings that sometimes found Goto wailing his guitar strings and lying on the floor, fucking with the myriad of pedals he had in front of them.

Bassist Tamaki Kunishi played a bitchin’ Gibson bass and occasionally headed over to some keyboards for the evening’s more delicate moments. Drummer Yasunori Takada had a Ludwig kit and a big fucking gong for the evening’s less delicate moments.

Was it all worth the wait? Probably, but thanks to an incredible amount of anger, generated by something beyond my control in a venue that I should have come to expect, my experience was less than ideal. Mono played no part in it (except for the being late part, Christ, they were only in Minneapolis the night before) and in fact, they made the late evening somewhat worthwhile.
Good night, Iowa Citay!!

Yes, I was exhausted the next day and yes I will continue to have second doubts about any future Gabe’s show as it’s turned into this shithole of amateur excuses and you wonder if they could even pull off a big show if it fell into their lap.

You’re competing for bands that hit other venues now, but more discouraging, you’re competing for the attention of the fickle youth who have tons of other things to capture their attention.

And it’s immediate too, so if you’re scheduling an early evening show, you’d better be prepared to make sure it’s on schedule, or be prepared to cut out an opener to get back within the time designated.

Because you know what happens when you make old people like me wait.

We get cranky, post-anything.