Monophonics & Polyrhythmics 10.30.15
Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Scott Shrader (J. Scott Shrader Photography)
San Francisco-based Monophonics brought their unique brand of psychedelic soul to Nectar Longue in Seattle for this 2-night Halloween co-headlining extravaganza with local favorites the Polyrhythmics. Both sold out shows lived up to the high expectations held by fans of either bands, and then some. On Friday (10.30), or Mischief Night as some like to call it, the Polyrhythmics kicked things off.
After a brief pause, the band took things in a different direction by playing “Moonroof.” This song is an extremely relaxing, smooth number with a laid back tempo. The jazzy, ever-rising horn parts at the start seriously made me feel as if I was driving down a quiet country road late at night with my roof open. This gave way to a great organ solo by Spicer, and the song then segued into a tune called “Crippled Crabs.” This song was based around a brilliantly funky riff from guitarist Ben Bloom, which served as an excellent playground for full-band interplay. At this point, the band seemed to have fully gelled with all eight members acting as a single entity. The song concluded with Bloom trading licks with Spicer’s organ, and the crowd’s enthusiasm was extraordinary. Over wild applause, the dissonant opening horn licks to “Libra Stripes” rang out. As Spicer interplayed with his keyboard, the atmosphere got progressively weirder over the course of the song. It was awesome to see how they put on such a diverse show. The band turned to “Liam Rides a Pony” next. This tune features outstanding trombone work from Clark, and more spacey clavinet sounds from Spicer. The crowd began to move once again, and the band ran with the energy by launching into “El Fuego.” This song makes me think of a Brazilian skyscraper catching aflame. During the slow build at the start it sounds like alarm bells are ringing (horns) and many people are filing down through the staircases (staccato guitar riff and Latin percussion). The tempo gradually speeds up throughout the song, as the blaze grows and burns down the building, with the alarms only becoming more emphatic and frantic (particularly due to the astounding trumpet vibrato skills of Morning).
Setlist: The Mendo Mulcher, Maruken, Le Hustle, Labrador, Moon Roof > Crippled Crabs, Libra Stripes, Liam Rides a Pony, El Fuego, Au Jus, Mr. Wasabi Rides Again, Jessie’s Party, Nurple
After the crowd had a chance to catch their breath, Monophonics took the stage to an excited room. Keyboardist/vocalist, Kelly Finnigan, was quick to catch the crowd’s attention with his voice, which is among the most effortlessly soulful that I have ever heard. The song “Lying Eyes” began with some excellent psychedelic guitar work from Ian McDonald, before Finnigan took over the spotlight with his roaring, Jim Morrison-esque pipes. Harmony vocals from the rest of the band members were light and floaty in a similar manner to that of Seattle psych rockers the Electric Prunes. This song had a brilliant hook (“and I don’t believe her!”) that could spin around in your head for days. Their music truly does have a timeless quality to it, and I got the feeling that nearly anyone I knew could enjoy this show. As they played through “Promises,” Finnigan did an excellent job of interacting with the crowd. His piercing blue eyes roamed the room, making eye contact with nearly everyone brave enough to return it. As he sang, he gestured wildly with his entire body (even while playing keys), making it clear just how personal these lyrics were to him. The wonderful horn section of trumpeter, Ryan Scott, and trombonist, Mars Lindgren were featured very prominently on this track, as they beautifully filled in the gaps in Finnigan’s vocals and perfectly complemented the mix.
“Sound of Sinning” segued into a nice cover of the chorus of the Talking Heads “Psycho Killer,” which featured tight grooving from the entire band as they nailed the feel of the song. After leading a giant singalong, the horns left the stage and we were treated to an extended segment of the core quartet of the band at their most instrumentally virtuosic. The song played, “Power the Trio” contained extensive improvisation and multiple Jimi Hendrix teases, as I definitely heard “Voodoo Chile” and “Third Stone from the Sun,” among others. Their versatility was quite impressive, as the musicians demonstrated their ability to impress with or without expanded instrumentation.
As the horns returned to the stage, Finnigan paused to implore the crowd to follow their dreams and to be grateful for their friends and families who were understanding enough to allow them to go out and do so. His messages when speaking to the crowd were overwhelmingly positive, a stark contrast to the often sad content of his lyrics. I believe him to ideally personify soul as a genre, because he does such a great job of presenting his lyrics in such a way that makes them seem uplifting and encouraging. Soul is all about appreciating the beauty of sad situations and the triumph that results from overcoming them.
The band worked their way through the rest of the set, even inviting Bello to the stage for “Holding Back Your Love” to add some additional percussive texture. For the encore, they dazzled the late-night warriors remaining in the thinned out crowd with a great version of their song “Bang Bang,” before bringing out ALL OF the Polyrhythmics for the final tune, “Water Get No Enemy.” The newly assembled 14-piece funk and soul orchestra absolutely destroyed an extended cut of this song, with the five exceptionally talented horn players basically running the show. This was the perfect way to close out the evening and allow the audience to dance themselves out of energy.
Setlist: Pressure, Lying Eyes, Promises, There’s A Riot Goin’ On, You Are So Good to Me, Sure Is Funky, My World is Empty, Sound of Sinning > Psycho Killer, Power the Trio, La La La Love Me, Hanging On, Find My Way Back Home, Foolish Love, Deception, Say You Love Me, Holding Back Your Love
Encore: Bang Bang, Water Get No Enemy
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