Three Cheers For The Monotonix And Tetuzi Akiyama

Marisa Demarco
4 min read
Fire + Monotonix = nervous Burt’s crew.
Share ::
If there is a spectrum of care and recklessness in music performances, I saw both ends of it last night.

First, Tetuzi Akiyama, renowned Japanese improv guitarist. Picture 30 or so people in Winnings Coffee, silent, eyes fixed on Akiyama sitting on a folding chair. He plays two notes together, stops, moves his fingers to find another couple of notes, considers, then plucks the strings again. He plays soooo quietly, I am getting distracted by other sounds, a ceramic coffee cup set gently on a tabletop, the swamp cooler’s pulsing hum, a person at the front of the room sniffing. When I put my keys in my pocket, the noise is huge, like smashing cymbals by comparison.

Truth be told, I don’t know that I "get" his performance, so small and still, each chosen note or set of notes as perfect as he can make them. But by what criteria is he evaluating these notes? I can’t tell.

Later, a friend tells me she thinks he was sometimes responding to the atmospheric noises, the car keys, the mug, the AC, playing along with them. If that’s the case, I’ll be damned. There was a child in the audience, much more attentive and patient than I. He couldn’t have been more than 5 years old.

I leave Winnings and drop in on Burt’s to check out Simfonik Plague, my favorite metal band in this town. When that set’s over, I’m ready to split. The next act plants its gear on the floor of Burt’s (not the stage), and though that’s a pretty novel idea, I’m tired.

I’m just about to leave when the drummer for the Monotonix starts the show by lighting his drum sticks on fire and playing with them—
on fire . The Monotonix is made up of three guys from Israel, one on guitar, one on drums and one on frenetic stage presence duty. After the fire, the guitarist and singer run all over Burt’s. The singer jumps in the garbage can.

The music is bar-banger material, all fuzzy guitar and sturdy beats. There’s pretty much no way not to be engaged in the show if you’re at Burt’s right now. Even the actual bar area, usually surrouded by boozehounds, seems slower than usual. A woman, maybe a little older, walks up and takes the mic from the singer. "Can I voice an opinion?" she asks. "The guitar and drums are too loud and the singing is too quiet. Don’t get me wrong," she says in that classic New Mexican way, "your singing is good, but … "

It’s so funny, she almost seems like a plant in the audience. At first, the Monotonix guy, with is frizzy hair and crazy moustache, is kind to her, but eventually, she gets pissed and walks away. He chases after her shouting, "This is rock and roll! This is rock and roll! This is rock and roll! This is rock and roll!"

The set resumes. Monotonix man steals everyone’s beer and pours it on himself, down his pants, on the drum kit. He takes off a grubby loafer and pours beer in it. Then he drinks it. Then he gets other audience members to drink out of it.

Some crazy dancer girl jumps in and just goes bonkers. I can’t tell if she’s hurting him, fighting him, dancing with him—it’s probably all three. She’s hitting him and they’re wrestling on the ground covered in garbage and booze, but still, he’s singing.

He lights himself on fire. He hangs from a big moshers’ neck. He forces the audience to sit down on the ground. He writhes and shouts and climbs all over his bandmates.

For a finale, he removes cymbals from his drummer’s kit, while the guy holds down the beat, of course, and passes them out to audience members along with drum sticks. Two big old trucker guys, not who you’d usually see at any rock show much less
this rock show, walk into Burt’s. He gives them sticks and the bass drum and the snare. Then he lets all these spontaneous drummers take over the show and orders them to play as loud as they can.

I wish badly that I had a camera. This YouTube clip should suffice. More are available here. Long live the Monotonix in good health. And let this be a lesson to all of us that we have to get our asses off the couch on Monday and Tuesday nights, because that’s when some of the most interesting shit is going on.

1 2 3 746