Ghost-Rock MONO Theists

It’s amazing how something – a band, a genre, or a culture – can unexpectedly take over your life for a little while. MONO, post-rock, and Japan did just that to me for the past month or so. I have been going to all kinds of crazy sites about Japanese spirits, reading too much Murakami, and talking to cats. I think I may have even lit candles while listening to “Hymn to the Immortal Wind” (yikes!). It all came to a head last night at MAO Livehouse.

Even the weather was perfect for the show that evening. The grey, misty atmosphere was a fitting counterpoint to MONO’s moody tropes. This might sound a bit dramatic, but with all the stuff I have been checking out about spirits and such, I was a little bit scared for the show and what was going to happen. Maybe scared is not the correct word. Anxious, trepidated? It was definitely not your ordinary show.

It was interesting that I happened to find this study of the post-rock genre by the world’s tallest rock critic. Coincidence? I think not. This was a showcase of unabashed “post-rock bands”. Nary a lyric was uttered throughout the entire night. This could have been anticipated, but it seemed to throw a bee in some patrons’ bonnets. The main themes of the night were discipline and supreme musicianship, from the opening band, Hua Lun, to Sugar Plum Ferry, who put on a very long and engaging set.

Sugar Plum Ferry

One thing that was a bit disconcerting about Sugar Plum Ferry was that the bassist played with his back to the crowd for the entire set. We were speculating on the reason for this. Disfiguring scar, unfortunate goatee, and silver dollar-sized hairy mole were the prevailing theories. However, their set was tremendous and ended with the guitars leaned up against the amps, wailing and chirruping, while the band members left the stage. I love that little tactic.

When MONO finally came on, it was not unlike the other bands in terms of the systematic formula. However, the level of skill and timing rises and sets with this accomplished band. The format is really predictable, I will say. Quiet, loud, quiet, loud. When the strobe lights come on you know you’re in for some serious rib-shaking shit. Even though you know what’s coming, it still moves you. The noise was powerfully palpable. If silence is something you can hear, then cacophony is something you can feel.

What I liked about the show is that the players were resolute. They had a job to do and they did it immaculately. They invited you to enter their movie and become a part of it. You could lose yourself within that dreamscape.

It’s as if when you’re in the forest, you become a seamless part of it. When you’re in the rain, you’re a part of the rain.  When you’re in the morning, you’re a seamless part of the morning. When you’re with me, you become a part of me.      -Ms. Saeki’s 15 year-old ghost from “Kafka on the Shore”.

I think we can definitely say that the MONO show tonight was a success and one of the more controversial shows in recent history here in Shanghai. Everyone had an opinion. Some didn’t get it, some loved it; but, whatever your opinion, the sign of a good show is discourse after the fact. It’s healthy because it shows the scene is growing into a community of discerning participants

I am standing solidly on the side of the artist on this particular fence. If you were not moved by MONO’s display of raw power and frantic fragility, you did not accept the invitation dangling in front of you. You did not step through the Entrance.

It’s a hard thing to give one’s self over to the emotion of something we don’t completely understand. I can see where your coming from, but I just don’t want to visit there.


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