Rock Performance: The energy of three

Local garage band Montonix brings home the party performance that wowed Seattle.

monotonix 88 (photo credit: )
monotonix 88
(photo credit: )
Ever since the introduction of power trios such as Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience in the 1960s, rock has proven that less is more. The fairly recent popularity of two-member bands like the White Stripes, C Average and Mecca Normal has taken this minimalism to a new level with little more than a bare-bones drum kit, a guitar and a puny 50-watt amplifier. This is what the punk movement of the late 70s was really about as bands such as the Clash, the Sex Pistols, The Ramones and the Cramps set out to combat the bland, over-produced sound of the day with something more raw - a step back towards the original twang of Chuck Berry and the haunting soul of a howling voodoo blues man (or woman). Israel has its own mini power trio in the Monotonix. These young men from Tel Aviv are doing everything they can to break the boundaries of conventional pretense and draw closer to the roots of rock and roll. During a typical show, Monotonix arranges its equipment close to the audience, often completely neglecting the stage in the small clubs they frequent. Then, from among the denizens of the dark, the three unleash a merciless medley. Their hard-rocking, guitar-driven songs like "Ride" and "Summers and Autumns" elicit instant movement from even their newest fans as they coalesce, but the psychedelic style more resembles early Black Sabbath and Japan's High-rise than Metallica or Nu Metal. The band started in late 2005 with singer Ami Shalev (aka Levi Elvis), guitarist Yonotan Gat and drummer Ron Shimoni, now replaced by Haggai Fershman. In the few years since its inception, the group has gone on two US tours. During their first, they performed a well-received showcase at the 2006 South by Southwest festival. They've recently finished a recording project with RTX on Volcom Records. But it is the band's live performances that have attracted the most praise and notoriety, especially in the States. The three have earned such a reputation that they played their first sold-out concert in Seattle, the capital of 90s grunge. There, Monotnix chose to play Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Ami recalls that "people were shocked. They were like, 'What are those guys from Israel playing?' The song is kind of holy to them." Shalev resembled a mixture of young Iggy Pop and a Lynyrd Skynyrd roadie as he danced and sang at a recent performance in Tel Aviv's Patiphone Club, which Shalev himself helped found. With a mad look in his eyes, he manhandled a seized bass drum and pedal into the front of the crowd. The music resumed with a classy impromptu cover of "Put a Spell on You" by Screaming Jay Hawkins. "I actually have the Credence Clearwater Revival version of it in mind when we play," Gat later admitted. The Monotonix will be playing Tuesday at Jerusalem's Yellow Submarine, 13 Harekhavim St., (02) 679-4040.