Polyrhythmics & Monophonics 10.31.15
Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Scott Shrader (J. Scott Shrader Photography)
This Halloween celebration was a highly anticipated event for many Seattle residents. As patrons arrived to the venue on Saturday, the costume game was extremely impressive. Monsanto Claus, the Whipsnake backpack, and of course the Monopoly man (Monophonics and Polyrhythmics, get it?) made appearances. The second night of the run saw the order flipped, with local band the Polyrhythmics headlining this time. This order brilliantly allowed Monophonics to play to the sold-out venue at its most crowded, and those who only attended the second night still got a chance to see the full gamut of what the San Francisco band had to offer.
The band delivered the same phenomenal stage presence, but I was a bit disappointed not to see the setlist mixed up more on the second night of their two-night run. Knowing that they have four amazing albums, it was clearly not an issue of the band not being talented enough or having enough material to do so. I believe they just wanted to make sure to play their most impressive material each night to help establish a solid Seattle fan base. This is something they certainly succeeded at. Their set the first evening was so good that I had no problem watching most of the songs for a second time. It can be even more fun seeing songs for the second time, as you are more familiar and better able to dance to them. I would have felt awful for my second-night only friends if they were deprived of hearing such wonderful songs as “Promises,” “Lying Eyes,” and You Are So Good to Me.”
The band then paused to introduce a new tune called “Dragon Lotion.” As much as the Polyrhythmics are known for their odd song titles, this one really threw me for a loop. One day, I am sure they will explain the reasoning behind that name at a show, and I can only hope to be in attendance to find out. I recall this song having a fantastically funky guitar riff from Bloom, and serving a somewhat analogous role in the set to “Crippled Crabs” the night before. This was their second debut in a row that delved deeply into funk rock territory, which was awesome to see and heavily appreciated by the crowd. The next song, “Stinky Finger,” featured some great flute work from Brown. The most impressive part of that was how well he played in spite of his fake beard getting in his way. Eventually he lowered the moustache portion down below his mouth to make things easier. Another holiday setlist surprise followed in “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.” This J. S. Bach cover starts off with an eerie organ part that Spicer absolutely nailed. As the full band joined in, each member did his part to cultivate a sound that was honestly terrifying.
Next up was “Before 4 After Four,” a Polyrhythmics tune I had yet to hear live. It did not disappoint in any way. This song features one of their most percussive grooves of all, with Bello playing with the intensity of a wild antelope. After some extensive exploration on the main theme and a wonderful trumpet solo from Morning, the entire band left the stage except for Schroff and Bello. They teamed up for one of my favorite drum solos I have seen in recent memory, and it drove the crowd wild. Drums solos have a reputation as driving off casual fans, but this one was exceptionally engaging and seemed to get the whole room even more into the show than they had been already. The rest of the band returned and acknowledged their talented rhythm section before completing the song.
The band next thwarted my plans for a trip away from the rail to get some fresh air by launching into a ripping cover of “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter. Preparing all three of these new covers for such a large band had to be no easy task, and they executed it masterfully. This song sounded as authentic as Phish’s notorious version, bolstered by outstanding work from the horn section. Afterwards, they paused to welcome Lindgren back to the stage for a second consecutive night. The dual-trombone version of “Wood Head” that followed was nothing short of phenomenal. “Fair Weather Fiends,” “Shadow Lines,” and “Bobo” closed out the set on a high note. “Bobo” started out with percussive, staccato guitar work from Bloom interplaying with Gray’s expressive bass work over top of the Schroff and Bello’s unstoppable groove. The moment where the horns come in is practically ecstatic, and the crowd was unable to contain themselves.
As if this wouldn’t have been a sufficient encore, the band next invited all of Monophonics up to the stage for one final tune. This song was one that most of the crowd was familiar with, “I Put a Spell On You,” originally by American R&B artist Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, but further popularized by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Since the Polyrhythmics are an instrumental group, that left none other than Kelly Finnigan to handle vocal duties, much to the crowd’s delight. The two bands combined to make this song completely their own, with Finnigan belting out the words in his own modified timing as Spicer could only tower over him from behind, triumphantly pumping both of his fists in the air in time. If you were performing next to someone who seemed to ooze soul in this manner, you would have done the same thing. Heroic moments like this are what takes a good show and turns it into a transcendent one. After the performance concluded at nearly 2 am, all 14 performers left the stage and came outside to meet with their adoring fans. Halloween at Nectar Lounge this year was unquestionably a treat, and I am already looking forward to my next chances to see these two wonderful bands.
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