(First posted on http://www.recessiondodgetovictory.wordpress.com on 13/06/2013)

Disclaimer: As with all my music reviews, this is a blow-by-blow account taken from my own perspective and written mostly for myself as a memory aid. I’m not always an expert on the band.

I have a confession to make: I went to this gig on the back of one song.

Yeah I know, I shouldn’t be such a single whore and see bands after hearing one of their ditties but I couldn’t help it – it was on my MP3 on repeat for weeks. I mean listen to it!


So after realising I’d have to hear a set worth of their music I got their other albums and listened like a student studies before exams. Which was to say not that much. However, what I did hear I enjoyed. Standouts on my self-induced crash course included “Yearning” from You Are There and the first two tracks from Under The Pipal Tree.

As a result of this, I honestly didn’t expect too much from Mono and mostly wanted to kick back and relax and feed my growing computerised Bloodbowl addiction in the comfort of my own home.

So I left my house to arrive at the venue for 7.30pm when doors opened. There was a Buckcherry gig on in the main part of the Arches where I saw Battles earlier in the week and was consequently directed around to the super secret second venue area of the Arches that I didn’t know existed only to be told the doors were at 8 despite the ticket stating 7.30pm. Le sigh…

However this did give me the opportunity to look at Tickets Scotland and see what other gigs were on. Lo and behold what did I discover but Glassjaw playing. On my birthday.

My face when I realised this:

After that splendid revelation. I dossed around some more and then arrived at the venue to rendezvous with my rendezvous from Battles.

Then the support act, Smoke Jaguar, hit us. The horror…

Two guitarists arrived on stage and started playing feedback on their guitar. I got excited at the prospect of a drone metal or drone rock band a la Sunn O))) or Boris on the stage before us and awaited the arrival of a drummer, which was set up and waiting with a large gong behind it.

Now you must understand that the aforementioned bands make thirty minute songs comprised of feedback work since they are able to set mood, often with manageable guitar work you can follow and drums pacing the song out that often take you to a certain place or can put you into a certain mood, sometimes a trance-like state and when done well, you know you’ve had some kind of experience in just listening.

Smoke Jaguar were an experience all right but one I’d like to forget. No drummer arrived. The first feedbacker was using an echoing, resonating pedal whereas the second was creating a really painful screeching above it. Foolishly I stood there for ten minutes thinking it would get better, hoping it would get better, trying to be the considerate listener who knew he’d have to review this steaming pile of shit before me.

Then I hit the bar, which unfortunately in this case, was in the same brick-walled tunnel The Arches took their namesake from.

My face when I realised this:

At the bar I watched the crowd reaction to the band which was probably the most entertaining thing about the whole performance. For approximately ten minutes after I left for the bar they sat and watched – a lot more patient than I was.

Meanwhile the bar staff, who already had their earplugs in, showed clear contempt for the band by shaking their head and apologising to customers whom they couldn’t hear over the undulating screeching  which had been going for around twenty minutes at this point.

Then a funny thing happened. Members of the crowd started talking to one another. They tried to ignore the noise and get on with conversation, which, from what I could tell from their body language, was mostly mocking the two guitarists, who spent the majority of the set gyrating their guitars into speakers whilst facing away from the crowd.

After about ten minutes of that boos eventually went up. To their credit, this didn’t stop Smoke Jaguar, but when they did mocking cries of “play one more” went up. One of the guitarists seemed furious. Better him than me.

After this disappointment Mono showed up to save the day, which they did, but in my opinion I’m afraid they didn’t get the girl too. As expected the foursome powered out climactic, sweeping music from a back catalogue of songs I only had a vague awareness of as I only recognised a couple of the songs.

Unlike Explosions in the Sky last month, Mono didn’t send shivers up my spine or take me some place else. They played gorgeous music that sometimes reminded me of different situations. “Yearning” live reminded me of the recent earthquake scenes and I couldn’t help but feel that the climactic sonic onslaught and the slow extinguishment of sound towards of the end of the song was a heartbeat caught in the tsunami.

And that’s where Mono’s power lies as a band. Their songs can take on different meanings to different people. But ultimately, I could’ve felt that way listening to them on the bus, the train, on a rainy day or even feeding my growing computerised Bloodbowl addiction in the comfort of my own home.

And they didn’t even play “Error #9”. If I see them again, it’ll be as support for another group or as part of a festival line-up.

EDIT: I forgot to mention the main benefit of having seen Mono live and that was watching the twin guitar work in action. Some bands, like the Rolling StonesToe and early Glassjaw  display an intricate twin guitar work that you can hear right from the CD. However, I never picked up on it so much and felt the production of the work between the two guitars was a little understated in Mono’s case to form a sound that made them come across like they were just one guitar. Hearing the two distinct guitars working away in harmony gave them part of that powerful sound live I mentioned above.