Thu 3 May – Mono, Grails, World's End Girlfriend
I was looking forward to this show for a very long time. Mono's approach to the contemporary post-rock genre consists of beautiful and melancholy melodies, including some of the loudest crescendos ever to be heard. They have acquired somewhat of a reputation for playing very, very loud shows, even to well-seasoned show-goers (to quote wikipedia).
World's End Girlfriend is a different experience altogether. I have had his (it's one person) complete discography for a long time, and I recognized every song he played. His work is so unique, I have trouble placing it into a genre. It contains many elements of post-rock, such as loud/soft dynamics, thundering crescendos, and some beautifully sad and soft moments, but then it also contains many elements of traditional classical music (including strings, lots of piano, sometimes even horns.) The songs he played were a bit reimagined for his solo live performance, and it added a lot to the dramatic aspect of his music.
Grails is a very neat and unique band as well. They are signed to Temporary Residence Limited (alongside Mono, Explosions in the Sky, etc.) and they play an interesting blend of post-rock garnished with some middle-eastern influences and dub-style bass and beats.
Before the show, I made sure to grab 2 Mono t-shirts, the limited colored pressing of the Mono & World's End Girlfriend collaboration LP, Grails' new LP (also colored, including a beautiful etching on side 4), and World's End Girlfriend's new album (Hurtbreak Wonderland) for my friend Aldy in Washington, who due to bad luck (the Mono/WEG show is 21+), will not be able to see these bands live. I managed to get the Mono + WEG LP signed by all of the members of Mono and World's End Girlfriend himself (he also signed Aldy's Hurtbreak Wonderland; I can't wait to send it to him.)
Onto the performances.
Grails is fucking awesome live. Their set was so beautifully composed, yet rocked so hard at the same time. The members moved around stage, trading places and instruments with one another quite a bit. It helped keep things dynamic. I usually found my eyes glued to their bassist, who made everything look easy. He would dance as he led the band into their passages and was easily the most active member on stage. Their buildups took their time to reach their destinations and had a wonderfully dramatic effect on me. Definitely an underappreciated band. I managed to get ahold of the guitarist's setlist.
Bass X (?)
Zak Riles, Emil Amos, William Slater, Alex Hall, Ben Nugent
World's End Girlfriend soon emerged. I felt my heart skip a beat when I first caught sight of him. When he started playing Daydream Loveletter, I almost started to cry. I had been hoping with all my heart that he would play something off Farewell Kingdom (his first, and my favorite.) Seeing it live was so much more emotive and captivating. He even managed to shut up the drunkies in the back with the gorgeous atmospheres he created. After the beautiful ambience that is Daydream Loveletter was near completion, he segued into Scorpius Circus while my lady friend and I freaked out in excitement. Scorpius Circus is my favorite track off of one of his more recent albums, the Lie Lay Land, and I shouldn't have to say; it fucking rocks live. I found myself lost in his world as he moved through each passage before the final conclusion of the song, which ends in walls of spectacular noise and samples. Finally, he began to play one of his most dramatically effective songs (also on the Lie Lay Land), We are the Massacre. It was truly a sight to behold when he reached the loudest part in the song. Maeda is a fucking genius; how one man can create such beautiful music I know not.
Daydream Loveletter (7:32)
Scorpius Circus (10:17)
We are the Massacre (5:45)
Eventually Mono themselves came out. We were directly in front, right underneath the tremendous onstage force that is Taka. To my surprise, he played mostly standing throughout their entire set (which was fucking mindblowing, I couldn't think of a more perfect set.) I really, really, really more than anything wanted to hear the Flames Beyond the Cold Mountain live. If I had heard that song, my life would be complete. When they were finally ready to play, the ambient droning tone that opens the song began to sound, and I immediately recognized it. I had to keep myself from jumping up and down in excitement.
As it began to climb and eventually reach the song's peak, I kept saying to myself, "this is getting pretty loud..." I kept thinking, "this must be as loud as it gets", but then it would get louder. I have never in my entire life heard a band that comes close to matching Mono in sheer levels of volume. I felt like my ears couldn't grasp the full spectrum of it all, it was fucking amazing; almost as if the music was going right through me. A person next to us was overwhelmed by it and began to hold his ears and put his head down on the stage itself. They soon appropriately began to play "a Heart Has Asked for the Pleasure" to follow the incredible tidal wave that ends "the Flames Beyond the Cold Mountain." It is a very ambient and beautiful piece, a bit on the shorter side at less than 4 minutes long.
Immediately thereafter they began "Lost Snow", which is the longest and loudest track (clocking in at just over 15 extraordinary minutes long) on "Walking Cloud, and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined." "Walking Cloud..." happens to be my favorite album, and Lost Snow my favorite song off that album. I knew this was going to be life-changing. As "Lost Snow" began to reach levels in sound I had yet to even come close to reaching, I looked around the audience and saw what was the most serene sight I'd ever seen.
A couple of hundred of people just standing, staring in awe; completely captivated by Mono's monumental force.
I had heard that Mono has a difficult time transferring their live sound to their albums, and now I know why. Recorded mediums don't get this loud. Mono has stated that most of the intensity that is experienced throughout their live shows is due in part to the fact that they become so physically involved in the music that is coming out through them. Seeing Taka play these songs was an especially moving scene in itself. He would writhe and contort while coaxing these otherworldly sounds out of his show-worn Fender Jazzmaster. I took about 10 pictures at different points in time; I had to have these scenes captured.
When Taka and Yoda began the interplay that opens "Yearning", I felt my heart nearly jump right out of my chest. "Yearning" is largely regarded as the landmark track on "You Are There", Mono's most recent album offering. It is a fifteen minute journey into musical bliss. Everyone around me had a look on their face that couldn't possibly represent anything other than "oh my fucking god." When "Yearning" is played, it is almost required that "Moonlight" accompanies it. It was especially awesome because it began with Tamaki on keyboard and Yasunori on synth duties. After playing 4 of the loudest songs in their catalog, they decided to close the set with the most beautiful of all goodbyes; "Halcyon (Beautiful Days)." Seeing this song live defines what Mono does and is as a band. Beautiful and soft passages that are the most beautiful of beautiful and softest of soft. A sudden and Earth-shaking climax that is the most sudden of sudden and loudest of loud.
This band is what all live music should strive to become.
The Flames Beyond the Cold Mountain (13:29)
A Heart Has Asked for the Pleasure (3:43)
Lost Snow (15:12)
Halcyon (Beautiful Days) (8:09)*
Takaakira "Taka" Goto
*Times represent timelengths for the recorded album versions; most were probably a bit longer live.