Frank Zappa said “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. While the experience of music is certainly irreducible, it remains possible to alert others to opportunities. I recently saw The Monochrome Set live at The Record Collector. In the past, I wouldn’t have done this, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, regardless of how cool I appear, I had never heard of The Monochrome Set before. The fact that they are made up largely of ex-bandmates from Adam and the Ants, and influenced such bands as The Smiths and Franz Ferdinand had not brought them to my attention. Another reason would be that I would never have found myself in Bordentown New Jersey, in the back of a record shop, for any legal purpose. It took a friend flying in from Japan to introduce me to micro concerts, and The Monochrome Set.
It was, to say the very least, a fascinating crowd. One of the great things about small venues (in this case there may have been fifty people present) is the interaction with the band, and also with the audience. No one was there by accident.
For some reason the video is only coming up as a link
I have come to enjoy smaller venues. We routinely visit World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, to the point that when I buy tickets, I know our preferred seat numbers (section 503, seats 3 and 4). This was the most intimate setting since I played basements back in High School. Despite that, Yuko wasn’t close enough (that’s us in the second row) and stood by the speakers. You can see her at 00:38 on the far left, holding up her camera.
As Zappa had mentioned, here comes the architecture. The Monochrome Set possesses what I love about this type of music, in that this type of music is beyond definition. “Post-punk new wave indie rock” is a little closer than “Avocado Helicopter”, but only a little. It’s not the kind of stuff I can listen to all day long and still accomplish anything, which is probably why bands that play music you have to actively listen to aren’t popular with people who accomplish things. As with most music, you can still dance to it, but the lyrics and the compositions deserve a good deal more praise than they receive. Their playing was so tight it made their relaxed look seem incongruous, which is part of the “post-punk” bit, kind of like salt and chocolate. You now know why I don’t dance about architecture often.
The band was, if anything, too approachable. Yuko wanted to introduce me to her friend Andy, the bassist, but one fan had brought a couple of suitcases filled with 45s to sign, and I was in need of a beer. Downside to concerts at record stores, no bar. There is, however a restaurant just down the street, Jester’s, and they politely stayed open for the post concert group. If you find yourself in Bordentown, tell the staff at Jester’s that you have a schedule to meet, and they’ll be prompt. Otherwise, you will receive service at a pace perfectly suited to a quiet little town.
I would be remiss were I to fail to mention the supporting act. A band that opens for another is always in an odd position, on this night Janet LaBelle opened. What a sweet young totally out of place act she was. While she normally performs with a full band, this night she was solo, primarily on electric guitar, but also doing several songs on the ukelele. Beautiful voice, skilled player, not too good at improvising, as when the store manager asked her to play a little longer before The Monochrome Set came out. I have no idea how music works in other people’s heads, but I liked her music. I may have been alone in that particular crowd, but at least one other person spoke to her during the break.
This weekend I will either see The Bush Tetras at Robert Drake’s birthday party, or Guy Campo at Yachtstock, or I’ll just rest up for next week’s Courtney Love show. It’s unlikely that I’ll write about any of it, I’ll be dancing.