Monolith 2009, Day Two: The Mars Volta, Chromeo, Monotonix, Phoenix and more
What it was like: A visual tribute to outdated technology with an epic soundtrack.
During the Bad Veins' set, the Woxy stage included props pulled straight from the cutting technological edge of the late 20th century.
A reel-to-reel machine and a rotary telephone were the prop pieces for the Cincinnati-based duo. Frontman Sebastien Schultz offered an impressive mix of sweeping guitar lines, rich synth effects and searing, searching vocals, as drummer Benjamin Davis complemented the blend with expansive, explosive accompaniment.
The odd visual nod to the technological trappings of yesteryear was a strange set piece, but ultimately gave the set an added luster to a set that was already more than memorable.
Sterling performances of tunes like "Gold and Warm" and "Afraid" gave a hint of why the group has found such rapid and explosive success in the indie scene. The duo offered a rich sound and an affecting emotion that would have been impressive from a quintet.
The dash of scenery only helped a stellar performance stand out a little bit more.
Verdict: One of the best performances I took in on the second day of the festival. -- AG
What it was like: Quirky and witty indie synth pop.
Sometimes you tell a lot about bands from the covers they do. The guys in Brooklyn-based Red Wire Black Wire could have played another tune from forthcoming album Robots & Roses, which hits the streets September 22, but they decided instead to close their set with Pat Benetar's "Love is a Battlefield." It was a quirky take with a killer guitar solo on the '80s hit, with Doug Walters doing some cheesy vocals almost as if he was in a karaoke bar. But it worked, as did the first part of their set, which was made up of the first half of Robots & Roses. Walters lyrics were witty and ironic if anything, singing about everything from William Blake to being somebody's washrag and a doormat.
Verdict: Definitely worth checking out. If you missed their set, they'll play at the Larimer Lounge Sunday, September 27, after touring the West Coast. -- Jon Solomon
What It Was Like: A tech demo.
The Glitch Mob used to be a wildly creative, blink-and-you-missed-it paced DJ collective. Now they are apparently trying to transition into artists. Which is cool -- for them. But for the listeners -- or this listener at least -- it's kind of a bummer. What I used to love about their DJ mixes was the whiplash-speed change-ups and brilliant track juxtapositions, held together by innovative production tricks and flourishes. All that is gone now, except the production flourishes. And in all frankness, they ain't enough to hold my attention. There were three of them with these cool-ass looking touchpad controllers and somehow they managed to produce what sounded like a single simple loop repeating for six minutes at a time. It was interesting at moments but incredibly slow paced. I was tempted to take a nap by the halfway point.
Verdict: Too slow, too repetitive. Too bad. -- CC
What it was like: Seeing a well-known underground band playing for a crowd largely ignorant of such things.
Maybe there were a lot of people at this show that have a clue what Rhinoceropolis or The Smell is, but it didn't seem like it to me. It's possible at least ten or twenty of the people who showed up will seek them out. HEALTH's SET started with a violent eruption of sound that was the most flawless fusion of noise, rock, power electronics and dance music I've yet heard. With almost every song, the band members hurled themselves into the disjointed rhythms and sudden shifts of tone. HEALTH's music showed an almost complete disregard for conventional song structure and made the instruments produce sounds most people aren't used to hearing come from guitars and bass. This is the type of band that makes up interesting sounds and doesn't think twice about throwing it into the mix as a compositional element. Treated white noise wails, ethereal vocals, razory, pitch-shifted guitars and harsh synth lines made up the electric mayhem and brutality the band's performance displayed throughout.
HEALTH's songs, though firmly in the realm of the experimental, are catchy and make you want to move with their wild dynamism. It's like the act took the ideas of all those great Fort Thunder bands and pushed that aesthetic into new territory, making that music more accessible without compromising the essential weirdness of it all. It was something of a surprise that the large crowd for this show was into something that even five years ago probably would have been too weird for most, and with this show HEALTH probably made some inroads for the increasing popularity of experimental music generally.
Verdict: Not as dangerous a show as when HEALTH played at Rhinoceropolis last summer, but musically much more solid. -- TM
What It Was Like: MSTRKRFT the Next Generation.
Just like most of the people there, I saw Savoy because MSTRKRFT canceled, which shifted some folks around and gave them a spot on the SoCo stage, which is a much better venue than the indoor spot they were slated for originally. And honestly, the promoters could probably have slapped MSTRKRFT's gold hockey masks on these Boulder kids and stuck them on the main stage in their place. Very few would have known the difference. They were a touch less polished, but this is raw, pumping electro we're talking about -- subtle touches are not exactly part of the program. They blasted out some pumping beats, topped them off with squiggly sounds and hip-hop/ragga samples and blammo- instant party. These kids probably just made 2,000 new fans for getting this slot. Good for them.
Verdict: It was simple, it was fun and it got old about thirty minutes in -- just like MSTRKRFT! -- CC