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Gig Review: Mono, Friday 6 March, Max Watts, Melbourne

More as a heavy metal aficionado and photographer, it is not so often that I decide to go and capture any other kinds of performances. Post-Rock is one of them though, for which I always had a soft spot, and hearing the news a few months ago that MONO would be in town tonight filled me with an indescribable joy and eagerness.

For those who are not so familiar with the genre, Post-Rock is an atmospheric and instrumental form of rock, not necessarily always soft-sounded but always dreamy and it will take you away to inner places you would never thought possible. Imagine it as an invitation from music to a self-introspection journey.

So Friday night, here I am for my second gig of the week, at Max Watts, again. I would not be able to recall how many shows I have attended in this venue, it is hosting some of the greatest rock and heavy music concerts and I literally call it a second home now. I am a bit early and am waiting outside for the doors to open. I am checking again who the support bands are going to be. British cellist Jo Quail and Sydney Post-Rock band Solkyri. Never heard of them before and it is with great impatience that I am waiting to capture them as I would expect artists supporting a band like MONO to be excellent.

Now standing in the pit, I am chatting with my colleague and friend photographer, questioning as always how the night is going to be: “Have you ever listened to Jo Quail before? She creates this incredible music, superimposing different melodies and beats using a loop pedal”. Interesting. Every time I hear the word loop pedal for some reason I know the music is going to be great. Here she comes, quite simply and quietly, no fuss, stand in the middle of the stage, give a glance to the audience and starts hitting the first strings. I have to hold down my camera for a moment, how mesmerising is what I’ve just heard? How can notes be so beautiful low and deep? But music doesn’t wait for me to process my emotions and here she continues playing, recording and accumulating different layers of sounds, of different complexity and speed, occasionally beating her cello to set a steady rhythm. I am in a fantasy movie, and I am one of its main characters, my core being hasn’t felt so involved with music in a long time. She will express towards the end of her set that she is waiting for a label to sign her so she can release more music. I am wondering how a label hasn’t signed her already, it did not seem logical to me, but here we go. I only wish her and her music for it to happen.

Second band to come on stage is Solkyri. How exciting is that? A band, like I said before, I never had a chance to hear before. I am thinking to myself that since they are local and because they’ve just released a new album, today actually, there is a good chance they will be playing regular shows in Australia over the coming months? My eagerness is suddenly boiling. And I won’t be disappointed. The 4 piece will deliver a very powerful performance, if you ever wondered what it means to see artists truly embodying their music, Solkyri is exactly that. The boys gave everything, and was left moved at the end of their set. As I am writing those lines I am delightfully listening to their new album “Mount Pleasant”.

MONO’s time is fast approaching. Their last album “Nowhere Now Here” has been spinning at home over the last few weeks, I wonder how it is going to render live. 10.20pm, the set is introduced by “God Bless”. The band make their entrance on stage, in the dark. Taka Goto and Yoda Suematsu grab their guitar and take a seat on small benches set up for them when Tamaki Kunishi stands at the back in front of Dahm Major Cipolla drum kit. The next 20 to 25 minutes will take the audience through the first 4 tracks of the newest release, including “Nowhere Now Here”, longest track and most beautiful, in my opinion, composition of this album along with “Sorrow” that will be played later in the set. They left me in awe the first time I had listened to them, I love how they slowly build up (like a lot of their compositions), calling my own vulnerability to take a seat and allow it to just be there and experience itself. Words do not exist anymore, just lingering raw feelings and vivid presence.

Lighting will mostly be backlighted and dark the whole night with occasional bursts, Taka hiding his face in his hair and guitar, intensifying a sense of mystery around the man and the music. The set will go for an hour and a half, half of it will be dedicated to “Nowhere Now Here”, the other half to some of their greatest compositions such as “Dream Odyssey”, “Halcyon (Beautiful Days)” featuring beautiful Jo Quail on stage or “Com(?)”.

A night I will never forget. If MONO’s records are embodiments of genuine and mind blowing beauty, their lives leave a print that will always remain.

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