Whew. I had a really fucking great weekend.
It's pretty easy to get burned out and jaded in the music business. Before I entered these trenches, I toiled as a social worker, and the occupational hazards were quite similar. Fueled by passionate people who are fighting for a valiant cause, but whose efforts frequently feel futile, punk rock and social justice are laudable ideals that often destroy their most diligent soldiers. I made a promise to myself when I entered the music business that if I ever found myself among the flippant, judgmental scenesters standing in the back of a club complaining about how "rock is dead" while artists were working their asses off onstage, I'd get the fuck out. Sometimes it's hard to keep that promise.
Between my dual roles as music columnist and radio DJ, I get snowed with a ridiculous avalanche of e-mails, promotional packages, and marketing efforts. I try to ignore Pitchfork, Idolator, and the general hype machine, but I really can't. In this MySpace, Vice-sponsored age, I end up attempting to digest a grotesque amount of music in a shamefully short time frame. It's very easy to lose sight of what I came here for originally.
However, it is comforting to know that just when I've been given enough rope to hang my cynical self, something comes along and shocks me back into realizing that some things are more important than the collective critical analysis of Arcade Fire's sophomore effort (for the record, I'm disappointed). What matters is experiencing the work of musicians who are so invested in their craft that they care more about the honesty of their expression than the reception of their audience. And what really matters is when both performer and patron are equally satisfied, as they were during Monotonix's performance at the Comet on Saturday night.
Other than the times that Fugazi, Unwound, and Les Savy Fav have left me speechless from their sonic force and physical fearlessness, I have not been as floored by a band as I was watching this bass-less, multigenerational trio unfold. With frontman Ami Shaley spearheading the onslaught, they ripped through a ream of anthemic, Sabbath-inflected seductions that made their love of the early Sub Pop catalog apparent, but the songs were delivered with an unironic aggression that would make Mark Arm blush. Taking it all in was a thrill in itself, but watching saucer-eyed onlookers like Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and Kinski's Chris Martin lose their shit was unexpected and utterly inspiring. When Shaley lit drummer Ran Shimoni's cymbals on fire and the audience showed zero apprehension and unadulterated support, all I could do was smile and hope no one noticed that my eyes were watering.
Quite unexpectedly, I ended up providing the floor Monotonix crashed on. I haven't had a band stay at my home in ages—and I can't say I'd want to play hostess on a regular basis—but spending the postshow hours hearing about their tours of duty (Shimoni drummed in the Israeli army and Shaley was "a tank commander"), discussing their collective love of Abba and ELO, and sharing in their enthusiasm when Don Lett's Punk Attitude documentary came on cable was more than enough to reinvigorate my previously dour spirit. Plus, Shaley coined a fabulous term when he described his unbridled, oddly trimmed coiff as a "Muffro."
Eventually, the gaps in my familiarity with Hebrew linguistics slowed things down and we ran out of Nirvana trivia to argue about, so we had to get down to pragmatic matters. "We are bigger in Seattle than we are in Tel Aviv, admitted Shimoni. He also misses his son and doesn't know if he will have a day job when they return to Israel, after their forthcoming dates in Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, and New York City. When I pointed out that no one at the Comet scolded them for their pyro tendencies, guitarist Yonatan Gat shrugged and said semi-scornfully, "Eh, they think: 'They're from Israel, they know how to deal with fire.'"
After I gave them directions to Guitar Center to fetch more drumsticks and researched a place for them to crash after their Sunday show in Bellingham, we stopped off for Mexican food and a much-needed hair of the dog. "Hannah, this is my present to you," Shaley said, gently pushing Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction into the van's CD player. The opening strains of "Welcome to the Jungle" had never sounded so sweet.