SAN FRANCISCO -- Mono's stage presence aside, Danette Rodham
specifically to hear their hit single
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Mono/Life_In_Mono.ram">"Life In Mono."
She got it.
And then -- whether she wanted it or not -- she got it again.
"I'm really psyched to hear that song," gushed the 32-year-old San
Francisco resident prior to the band's performance at Bimbo's 365 Club,
during which the band chose to offer two identical versions of the song. "I
haven't heard anything else by them."
After that performance, it's not likely she'll ever want to again.
Rodham was one of about 800 people who packed Mono's sold-out show
night at Bimbo's 365 Club, buzzing in anticipation of hearing their one hit
and whatever other gems the band had to throw the crowd's way. Little did
they know that they'd be hearing "Life In Mono" and a more obscure number
not once, but twice before it was over.
Call it the plight of a band touring with only one album (Formica
Blues) and one hit to support, or the capstone of a show conducted by
an obviously novice act. Whatever you call it, this show demonstrated that
bands such as Mono, which flash upon the scene with a catchy song hinting
at sublime brilliance, are better suited to tour in package deals with
other similarly experienced acts than in solo headlining slots.
All the makings of a big night out were set at the retro-swank club.
Members of San Francisco's current musical darlings The Kinetics mingled
among the urban-hipster crowd, all liberally enjoying cocktails and
seemingly happy to be a part of what promised to be one of the year's most
intriguing Bay Area performances. After a tepid set by opening act the
Devlins, all bodies slowly began filtering into the velvet-tinged main room.
Scattered on the stage were a couple of half-sized Gothic columns and two
screens, cocked askew and displaying tie-dye watery images. The five
members of Mono made their entrance to the accompaniment of some older
swing jazz. Befitting a crowd gathered to hear mellow, trip-hop styled
sounds, the applause that greeted the band was restrained.
In what may have been their most professional decision that night, Mono,
led by chanteuse Siobhan De Mare, seemed respectful of that restraint and
slid into the first song of the evening. Considering all the talk about the
band's explosive sound, they played relatively softly, and the members of
the crowd nodded their heads en masse to the lulling beats.
Still, all seemed to be going well enough during the first number.
The first sign of trouble emerged as the last notes from the keyboard
drifted off. "All right!! Are you all ready to party?" De Mare screamed in
her piercing Cockney accent, which did nothing but shatter the moment.
Having just been rudely awoken from its musical lullaby and unsure how else
to respond, the crowd faintly answered in the affirmative.
"OK!" she continued, "We're Mono!! Let's live the high life!!" It sounded
scripted and left the crowd feeling cheated.
Hipsters looked at each other with mock embarrassment for the singer, who
from that point on couldn't regain her composure long enough to convince
the crowd that she was in control. In song after similar song, De Mare
offered arena-rock gestures and, when not singing, arena-rock attempts to
rally the crowd.
It quickly became clear that this band is little more than a Portishead
clone. But whereas Portishead succeed in bringing lavish sonic textures,
Mono arrive only with arena ambitions.
About a third of the way into the 45-minute set, the band bestowed its hit,
"Life In Mono," on the crowd, which responded with loud approval, though
still less than rousing.
For the rest of the show, the group succeeded in bringing new meaning to
the term "album filler," clogging up the massive holes in its performance
with a weak musical glue that could not hold together the stage, let alone
the crowd. Among the tunes were "The Outsider," "Blind Man" and "Playboys."
Showing their disapproval, a trickle of people began heading for the exits
after "Life In Mono" finished. Those who chose to stick around were treated
to another go-round of the song as the first encore.
"You really like us!!" De Mare howled in one of the evening's most ironic
As the remainder of the crowd left the club later that night, the
once-beaming faces were now furtive, with more than one person asking
half-jokingly if refunds were available.