this must be the place....goin strong , yeah baby!!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yom Kippur with Monotonix

Hey! So I'd like to write about how i just saw this great show, and how that's been happening a lot to me lately and how it doesn't get old, but actually I'm sort of sad (all that is true tho)!

Today is Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. You are supposed to fast, which I didn't do...I've only actually made it the whole way like 3 times out of 10 years since my Bar-Mitzvah when you are supposed to start, but my eating this year was particularly egregious. Anyways, it's the day of atonement and you go to services twice if you are observant, once in the morning, and then you take a break in the afternoon, and then you go back at maybe 5-6 PM and stay until sundown and then the holiday is over and you break the fast. Usually, you go to someones house for a little get together which is called break-the-fast. That's what I did. Then I went and saw Monotonix.

It was already a very weird Jewish day for me internally. I don't think about being Jewish a lot unless someone else brings it up, and then its only in this caricatured way of how my being Jewish relates to the situation (hint: it usually doesn't). So being at services when I'm not very religious (although I used to be) was one thing. Then I had a nice realization that I wasn't the only one at synagogue who maybe didn't believe in God all the way. It was a funny little conversation, I was talking to this guy who was in the foyer "looking for his wife." He was, and even somewhat actively, but he was not looking forward to finding her because then he would have to go back into services. It's weird the way I belong to this distinct culture, but the only time I am ever in a large group of only Jews would be at something related to the religious aspect. Even the camps or at the JCC which are these supposed more secular branches of the diversified and vibrant Jewish community have always felt like they had this religious bent to them. (and maybe this has something to do with my family being from here, and all my parents friends and acquaintances either awkwardly talking to me or awkwardly not talking to me at such meetings.)

Anyways I went and saw Monotonix after break-the-fast tonight. They were staying with Party Chris and he introduced me to them. I talked to their drummer Haggai. I asked him what he did for the holiday and he said "ooh, i think we are probably just going to pass out," thinking I meant "hey let's hang out tonight and party really hard!" I suppose. So I clarified and the answer was basically drive and fill mail-orders, catch lunch, read e-mails. Something to note---these guys have been on the road without a break, half a world from their home for what will amount to something like 120 days. They play NYC on this stretch 4 times in 3 days, with a show in Delaware the evening of the 3rd day. On their way to the US and back from they play in Europe and England. Per Party Chris, in the last 6 months they have had one 3 week break in Israel, and thats been the extent of it.

Anyways, I felt sad that that was how they had spent their holiday, and even sadder that I had had this idea to bring them a save plate from break-the-fast filled with ultra-Jewish food goodies that you really see in bulk on the holidays (noodle kugel, fruit salads, regular salads, different things) and I just didn't do it. We were at my parents friends house, not my relatives, but if I had explained the situation I'm sure something could have been arranged. Probably would have gotten in for free, too.

And its how they are spending their life right now. In some ways there is nothing greater, and I respect that as guys in their mid 30s - early 40s they are at a point in their lives where they can make the decision to commit to an amount of work like that. Like hey, this is what we want (all off of some initial spark of imagination), and this is how you do it -- and by touring with a show like that...seriously, they should be playing arenas -- but at the same time touring that hard is something at this point in my life I would never be able to do (due to a lack of discipline I'm sure affects most my entire age group, simply because that's not what humans do or how they think at this point in their coach said, "mental toughness.") So while conceptually its not all that foreign to me, it lays this sort of psychedelic wash of feeling a greater period of human lifespan than I have actually existed in thus far. And that's heavy shit!

Their show was all fun, but deeper than that, it consisted of this progression of rock and roll tropes that, done so right, really spoke for themselves. Like, this is why you set cymbals on fire, and this is why you play on the floor, and move around, and crowd surf, and dump out beers, and dump out trash cans, etc, etc, to infinity. I mean, I've seen all that shit done wrong so many times, that it was really a joy to see it all done right, and all at once.

They made me think of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, actually, the way the whole experience was a show, and the way there was this great pacing to it. The fire was right at the beginning, and so were the trash cans and a certain kind of mayhem, and that all gave way to a different sort, which then gave way to this absurd "taking it to the streets" thing which can only end up in a hippie drum circle, and finally, mercifull, was broken up by sirens, and the fact that it was a EMS truck just trying to make it across the street after waiting patiently for the crowd to let them through and not cops breaking the whole thing up, well that was just a detail. But it wouldn't have worked in opposite order. And the little touches, like going all over the place, but doing so hooked up to a 100 foot guitar cable instead of rocking one of those wireless get ups. It was all great.

The whole bit was like this beautiful dance of life, to me. All these dance steps, but to me what made it so much better than the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, is while there was an outline (set this on fire, move a couple times, stand on something) there was clearly a much greater level being improvised. It was really L'Chaim! as the Jews say, "To Life!" and I really feel every band like this that exists is a triumph of humanity over the forces of annihilation. (heavy!) But seriously, after what I went through all day, I bizarrely found this incredible solidarity with my Jewish roots from watching these mostly secular Israeli's rock out on Thin Lizzy riffs, and there is something sort of awesome about that. Although I would certainly hesitate to call Monotonix "a religious experience."

So yeah, it was a really, really great show. I just wish I hadn't forgotten the food!


  1. Holla!

    Can we go to Houston tonight and see them again?

  2. ethan, you're jewish?

    how did i not know that?