Monkey Mania is not really a club. I think it’s someone’s basement. But it’s located in an industrial warehouse neighborhood, and therefore there’s no danger of being too loud for the neighbors. It felt like we were huddled in someone’s basement, while the band played in the corner near the TV that was showing The Transformers Movie before the show started. Still, the sound was remarkably good, and it wasn’t crowded, and it was cheap, so no mind.
Dave Fischoff, from Chicago, kicked off the night, or maybe it would be more correct to say he gave the night the very smallest of pushes, just barely a nudge. Fischoff played what had to be the most unique show I’ve ever seen. His style of music is incredibly minimalistic. Think a combination of Black Heart Procession and Low, only slow it down and strip it down even further than Low’s already stripped-down sound. Just him and an electric guitar and a tape playing background noises and recordings of people talking and such. His voice is barely more than a whisper, and his very breaths become almost another instrument. The crowd sat perfectly still and quiet, some staring at Fischoff, who sang mostly with his eyes closed and hunched way over his guitar when he wasn’t singing, and others with their eyes closed. There was no applause between songs. That would have been like applauding in church. In fact, every movement seemed inordinately loud, so that you just wanted to sit perfectly still and absorb his music. One of the recordings he played over sounded like a fast-beating heart, and it made me conscious of my own heart beating. It was a very original show, and afterward he said that that was the effect he was trying for. The only problem is that his breathy singing makes it extremely difficult to understand him. He is much more discernable on his album, but it was kind of neat to not understand. It made more of an extremely subtle soundscape of incredibly soft noise than songs. Incredibly unique. Most of the crowd probably didn’t enjoy it, but I have to say I was entranced. The applause when he finished quietly was strong enough to show some people got it.
Angels Never Answer, it’s safe to say, are the opposites of Fischoff. This Boulder, Colo., band plays screaming hardcore. This definitely seemed like the kind of venue made for hardcore shows, with moody lighting and low ceilings and the band playing right there among you instead of over or removed from the crowd. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen little local hardcore bands open for bands on tour in tiny clubs. Most are terribly unoriginal, covering their lack of talent with sheer noise. Angels Never Answer convinced me that they had talent. Although the singer’s screams were indecipherable (except one time when I caught the words “butterfly fly”), the two guitars and bass were varied and driving and original. There was even a math-rock feel to the driving rhythms and guitar riffs. And the band slowed down a few times enough to get a bit more melodic. I was pretty impressed. They sounded like some of the more metal-core bands like Coalesce than Boy Sets Fire, but they have a lot of potential.
Panoply Academy Legionaires remind me of what would happen if the Dismemberment Plan, Modest Mouse, and The Archers of Loaf had a child together. Before they finished setting up, the band opened up a suitcase and told everyone to take noisemakers. The case was full of hundreds of little novelty noisemakers, and the crowd used them throughout the entire show. It was one of the most unique things I’ve seen, and it really got the crowd involved. Quite a nice touch. The band plays a quirky, math-rocky style of rock, and the singer’s high-pitched, warbling voice was very original. The drummer, oddly enough, had only a snare, a bass, and one high-hat, but he made up for it by keeping a steady if uninspired beat and mixing it up by playing the trumpet as well, at times playing the trumpet and drums at the same time. There was no applause for Panoply between songs either, but the crowd showed their approval by using the noisemakers and whooping or halloring. This band is without a doubt one of the most unique and quirky bands I’ve seen in a long time, and I think they really won over the crowd despite often playing with their backs to the crowd. At one point they even shouted out the old playground chant of “My mother and your mother were out washing clothes, my mother punched your mother right in the nose, what color was the blood?” And when someone shouted “blue,” they shouted back “blue, b-l-u-e” and went right back into the song. Very neat, and another cool way to get the audience involved. Despite the fact that most of the crowd was there to see Angels Never Answer and another hardcore band that played after Panoply (who I didn’t stay for), Panoply definitely won them over. I would say they’re a must-see if they come to your town. Look for reviews from their previous incarnations, Panoply Academ Glee Club and Panoply Academy Corps of Engineers soon on DOA.