Honestly, you don’t need to read this blurb to know that Kevin Barnes and company put on a psychedelic, rainbow-colored unicorn orgy of a live show. It’s been amply documented elsewhere. Still, it’s a sight to behold. The last time I saw these guys, they were touring in support of 2005’s
. Since then, they’ve taken their sexually transgressive pop to another level of euphoric absurdity. Playing to a soggy but game crowd, Of Montreal packed its 45-minute set full of sexed-up spirit, with selections ranging from 2003’s “Rapture Rapes The Muses” to the best of last year’s
. Since the band was playing Monolith’s cramped second stage, some of the show’s extracurricular freakiness had to be toned down. But no worries: there was still ample room for switchblade fights, pig sacrifices, priest gas attacks and randy tigers. The rain pretty much disappeared while the group was on stage. Coincidence? Doubtful.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
For Karen O (pictured above), the spirit was willing, but the vocal chords were weak. Despite a road-weary voice, O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs braved a chilly and wet headlining spot on Monolith’s first night. The set leaned heavily on selections from new release It’s Blitz!
, but the group still found time to trot out old favorites like “Miles Away.” Ms. O came off sounding a little scratchy and thin, but remained an attention-grabbing showwoman, dancing about in a colorful poncho and involving the front row on a few occasions. Guitarist/synth-man Nick Zinner prowled stage left, while Brian Chase played the consummate pro on drums. It’s hard to believe this group already has been around for eight years, but their combustive on-stage chemistry is the sort of thing that only experienced partners develop. “Maps,” of course, came out big and bold to close the main set, but newer singles like “Heads Will Roll” seemed to grab the greatest audience reaction. That’s a good sign for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs going forward: They’re not just living off of what they once were, but forging ahead toward the new. Just give some rest to those pipes, Karen.MONOLITH, DAY TWO
The second day at Monolith, the supporting cast was looking mighty thin. Saturday’s lineup had been packed with juicy undercards. But, hey, Sunday’s top-heavy band roster presented an opportunity for gold digging. For me, these were the wandering hours of Monolith, spent hopping from stage to stage in search of that hidden gem. Here’s what I found during the afternoon hours:
A Shoreline Dream
“Oooooooooh, aaaaaaaah, ooooooooh,” goes the singer. Didn’t stay long for these hairy gentlemen.
Denver dudes, none of whose material I can remember.
We Were Promised Jetpacks
Sullen and earnest Scotsmen, at least when they’re playing. Singer Adam Thompson was actually quite witty and charmingly self-deprecating between songs. Most of their tunes follow the same formula: slow, aching build to big cathartic finale. But I sense much promise in these young ones.
Cuddly as a koala bear, these Aussies brought some spunk to a drizzly afternoon.
Musical chops? Lyrics? Melody? All overrated. The only relevant question here: Can your favorite bands stir shit up the way Tel Aviv’s Monotonix can? No, they cannot. Don’t even front on this one. Playing amidst the crowd while a flock of photographers snapped shots from the stage, these loveable Neanderthals turned the top plateau of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre into their personal party pad for 35 minutes. Singer Ami Shalev began the proceedings by stealing people’s beers to douse his drummer, warmed things up with a crowd surfing expedition or two, and peaked by sticking the microphone between his pale buttcheeks. The music? Uh, yeah... there were guitar chords, I think, and a rhythm of sorts. Shalev, meanwhile, shouted some garbled mush into his tainted mic. At one point, he led the most badass audience call-and-response I’ve ever seen, barking a series of unintelligible grunts that the spectators immediately replicated.
The Dandy Warhols
Plenty of name recognition, but they seemed dull and aloof in comparison to what had just transpired at Monotonix's set.
Just what Monolith needed to keep things moving in the late afternoon: no-gimmicks, blood-and-guts rock with friendly hooks and chord progressions. Almost enjoyable enough to make me forget about the Old Testament-style damnation Hutch Harris was spitting into the microphone.
The Glitch Mob
Dance music for conceited hipsters.
Dance music for University of Colorado jocks.
French Horn Rebellion
Dance music for band geeks.
Method Man & Redman:
These two rappers are so crowd-pleasing live that I’ve almost forgiven them for “How High.” And that TV show of theirs. Blasting rapid-fire through a mixture of cuts old and new, the veteran MCs outhustled most of their younger competition.
I hate this feeling: surrounded by audience members who know and love every note of the band playing up on stage, while meanwhile you just don’t get it
. So it went for the first several songs of the Passion Pit set, as I strained my ears to hear the great pale hope that these youngsters are purported to be. Everyone around me was bouncing and singing along, and there I was, grimacing and doing the awkward rhythmic head nod with my hands in my pockets. What was so special about these Bostonians, other than the fact that they looked like they were all cloned from the same bespectacled record-store clerk? Danceable, yes, buoyant, sure, falsetto, I can dig it. But the best of what’s next
? I couldn’t go that far. Once the set hit the home stretch, though, my defenses were worn down. I realized I was looking at it the wrong way: instead of expecting a generational talent, I should just accept the light grooves and warbling synths at face value. Feel the beat. Dance. And so it went. I still don’t understand all of the commotion over these guys, though.Phoenix
Going into this set, I probably would have described Phoenix as expert pop songsmiths—smart and catchy, and extremely affable listening. Words like “muscular” and “arena-ready,” however, would not have come to mind. Phoenix’s Monolith performance completely changed my perception of them, for the better. Playing on rented gear from a Denver Guitar Center, the band filled the cavernous Red Rocks Amphitheatre with one slam-dunk track after the next. Listening to the band’s studio work, I’d never fully reckoned the power of its rhythm section, or the charisma of leading man Thomas Mars, or the clockwork precision that bonds the whole thing together. But, damn, these guys killed it from start to finish. Astonishingly, they would not have landed the main stage slot had MSTRKRFT not pulled out of its Monolith set due to illness. With a taut and confident set bookended by instant classics “Lisztomania” and “1901,” the men of Phoenix proved that they belonged in the spotlight.