February 15th, 2008

February 2008 concert: Mono In VCF at The Triple Door

Last night I went with my friends Tony and Pam to The Triple Door to see Mono In VCF. The band's somewhat awkward name made sense when I learned it references both Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production style from the '60s and the Moog synthesizer (VCF standing for "voltage-controlled filter", an important part of analog synthesizers). This show marked the CD release of their debut self-titled album, which first came out in November as a digital download. KEXP had been playing their music for months already, so I've been eagerly awaiting this show for a while. Opening the show was fellow Tacoma band The Elephants.

The Elephants are a quartet on guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums. Lead vocals were shared by the guitarist and the keyboardist. At the start of their set, they sounded like a typical post-grunge rock quartet. But then after a couple songs, they started bringing in a classic 80s New Wave sound on the keyboard, and contrasted it with Britpop-style ringing guitar. The mix of 80s and 90s styles continued, with the band taking obvious cues from the Charlatans UK, the Cure, and Echo & the Bunnymen. Although their sound was heavily derivative, they still brought their own spirit to it, and they played well. I really enjoyed their set, and would've picked up a CD if I'd seen one after the show. I'll be keeping an eye out for them in the future.

Mono In VCF are the quartet of Kim Miller (vocals), Hunter Lea (guitar, synth & organ, vocals), Jordan Luckman (bass guitar), and Jason Falk (drums); when playing live, they are joined by George Reid-Harmon (guitars), Martin Feveyear (keyboards, and also the band's producer), and Scott Clarke (drums & percussion). Their music is perhaps best described as "cinematic cabaret", a style that is at once sweeping and intimate, grand and sophisticated. I felt they had a very European feel, specifically French, while Tony suggested spaghetti Westerns. Perhaps fittingly, Mono In VCF's sound reminded me most of the bands Elysian Fields - an American band also with a strong European cabaret feel - and Hooverphonic - a Belgian band that started out trip-hop and moved toward that same cabaret style. Some of the songs had hints of goth and shoegazer as well, with a little noisy guitar feedback in an instrumental about halfway through the set.

The instrumental was apparently the bonus track of the evening, as Mono In VCF played through their album in order, but the album does not include an instrumental. The band sounded great live, with Miller's powerful vocals commanding everyone's attention. The stage lighting and smoke complemented the music very well, conjuring a moody atmosphere alternately wistful, mysterious, and dreamy. My only disappointment was that the show felt over too soon, and since they had no encore after playing straight through their album, I feared that meant it'd be a long while before they had more music to share. But as the live-only instrumental showed, of course they have more songs than they put on the album, and maybe it won't be so long before we start hearing them. In the meantime, I have their album to learn by heart.

Edit to add: I was too far away from the stage to get any decent photos with my iPhone. I ended up keeping just one photo each of The Elephants and Mono In VCF.

Earlier today (Friday) I received an unexpected invitation to go see Keren Ann and Dean & Britta, who happened to be playing at The Triple Door this evening. I went and enjoyed both bands quite a lot; I hope to get that review written more promptly than I did this one, and post it later this weekend. Next week on Thursday the 21st, Beehive are playing at Neumos, along with Emilia Sosa (who I saw last year in February and March) and Furniture Girls (who I saw just last month). Work might keep me from attending, but I'm going to try to make it.

Looking ahead to March, just today my sister Andrea told me that I should go to Chop Suey on Sunday the 2nd to see Balkan Beat Box; I don't know much about them, but if Andrea's recommending them, then they'll be interesting. On Tuesday March 25, Jens Lekman will be at Neumos; I've enjoyed hearing his breezy pop on KEXP, so I'm thinking I should check him out live. Hmm, Lekman's fellow Swede Jose Gonzalez will be at the Triple Door that weekend, March 29 and 30, and I think he'd be worth checking out too. Closing out March, X are also doing two shows, March 30 and 31, at The Showbox. And looking even further ahead, I'm seeing Sons & Daughters (April 3 @ Neumos), Ghostland Observatory (April 4 & 5 @ Showbox), American Music Club (April 5 @ Triple Door), Meat Beat Manifesto (April 9 @ Neumos), Simian Mobile Disco (April 24 @ Neumos), Joe Jackson (May 4 @ Moore Theatre), and Ladytron (May 24 @ Showbox). Man, that's a lot of great shows coming up. It looks like a busy spring for me.