Mono & Holy Sons @ Centre Phi, April 26, 2017

Holy Sons and Mono played some beautifully heavy music at the modern and intimate Centre Phi on April 26, 2017.

The opening act, Holy Sons, is an indie rock band from Brooklyn. While previewing their bandcamp, I noticed that their sound was distinctively different from Mono's, and wondered why they were chosen to play with such a contrasting band. At the show, it started to make a little more sense. Although their sound is generally pretty ho-hum and generic indie rock (at least from what I heard), it also had a vaguely bluesy vibe that was just downtempo enough. I feel that the best parts of Holy Sons’ performance were ​the quieter moments, where you could better hear the connection between them and Mono. Their show was also sprinkled with the vocalist's ramblings about David Carradine’s life and death in between songs. The anecdotes about autoerotic asphyxiation were a welcome, if unexpected addition.

Then came the main act, Japanese post-rock band Mono. To accentuate fact that their show will be sad as hell, they walked on stage with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata playing in the background. Like Holy Sons, the best part of Mono's performance were the quiet moments. The sparse instrumentation of their intros gave the audience some time to rest in between songs and to prepare for the loudness to come. For the most part, Mono’s music follows a formula: a somber intro (often played on the glockenspiel), a melancholy buildup, and an explosive wall of sound. Some of their albums have a string section to make their music extra melancholy and grand, but it was just the three members of the band for this tour. It all feels very cathartic, but I usually need to be in a specific mood to enjoy that kind of thing, or else I get bored or start feeling down in the dumps.

But seeing them live is a different story—it's more than just the music. The band itself did not utter a single word except at the end to thank the audience for coming. They did their best to have little stage presence. In particular, their lead guitarist Takaakira "Taka" Goto stayed seated at the edge of the stage for most of the show. Once the show was over, no one asked or gave an encore performance. The crowd was very calm, save for a couple of pumped fists raised in the air.

The heaviness of the music weighed down on all that were present, but there was a mutual understanding that the ever present walls of sound were more like a warm embrace after bawling your eyes out rather than an oppressive force of nature. To ask for more would be selfish.

All of this concert’s parts added up to much more than the sum of its parts. It was a nice reminder to be aware of everything that makes up a show, and what makes them memorable experiences. And I will certainly remember this concert.

Image credit: Centre Phi.