Live Review: Mona with the Silver Liners and the Rassle, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 18th February 2012

By on Monday, 20th February 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Picture it: the 4th of August, 2010, Washington, DC. I’ve just taken over the reins as Editor of TGTF when I get an email from a PR company we’ve worked with for a while that read like this:

Hope you are well and enjoying the summer. We are looking after a new band who hail from Nashville. They go by the name of ‘Mona’ and we are honestly so excited about them! But don’t take my word for it, I have copied a link below where you can download their video for the new song “Listen To Your Love”. Would be really grateful if you would consider putting it up on the site?

It took me a couple days – admittedly, I felt a bit dubious about writing about a band from Nashville, considering I avoid Kings of Leon like the plague (overplayed on radio here) – but I finally got around to watching the said video and was definitely intrigued enough to want to post this early version video and spread the word about Mona. There was something about them that I couldn’t put my finger on, just from watching one of their videos. But I know what it is now, and it’s something that can’t be manufactured or bought: it’s heart. The band are currently on their first American headlining tour, which in hindsight sounds really unbelievable saying since they are American, as frontman Nick Brown commented Saturday night with a smirk, “we’re two rednecks and two white trash.” But you can’t deny the truth, that the band got their start over a year and half ago in front of UK audiences. Now, they’re ready to make their mark at home and DC’s show proved they’ve got the goods to be a truly successful act stateside.

Whether this was merely by chance, I’ll never know, but unlike Tuesday’s Slow Club gig, the openers held their own admirably against Mona. As you can probably guess, I’ve heard plenty of DC acts during my time as a blogger and not too many have really clicked with me. (Now that I think about it, the only two I can remember prior to this week that I really liked were Casper Bangs and Typefighter.) However, the first band, the Silver Liners, surprisingly impressed me. Music label / industry types reading this, take note: are you looking for a band with potential for mainstream success? I’d place my bets on this one (given proper industry support, of course).

When you’re a band people haven’t heard of before, it’s really hard to get the crowd behind you. A remarkably good cover of ‘1901’ did just that. They started their set with ‘American Girl’, which comes off just as sunny as any surf pop band that has done well in the UK over the last 2 years, except that unlike Best Coast and those other faux rock pretenders, I actually like it. (Haha.) My own confusion about them is why they decided to add keyboards; stylistically, they have a deft hand with songwriting and harmonisation, so I’m wondering if they’ve added the keyboards because they felt they had to, in order to compete with, say, MGMT, on the track ‘Without a Face’, for instance. I felt they were most successful when they stuck to a more traditional rock format. Their closing number ‘Don’t Wait’ (?) was punctuated by a very catchy melodic progression of “oh oh ohs” that resulted in getting the audience to shout back the same progression and the whole thing suggested We Are Scientists at their most frenetic. Good stuff.

The New York band the Rassle (actually two brothers plus a touring bassist and drummer) also has the surf pop type sound working for them, and they sound more like the Beach Boys than the Silver Liners in that regard (see: ‘Born Free’). Passable and enjoyable rock but nothing with a wow factor for me. I had trouble concentrating on this second support band because it felt like I was standing before rock royalty while watching them. Their touring drummer looked to be a fascinating cross between Noel Gallagher and Miles Kane; singer Blair Van Nort looks like and was dressed the part of Ian Brown. This band has already been picked by high-end leisure clothing chain J. Crew for interviews and fashion shoots (similar to what Burberry is doing in the UK [example with Dog is Dead]) so my guess is that they’re doing all right for themselves.

Mona’s set started with what I considered a surprise: Whitney Houston’s version of our national anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, followed by the band coming on stage and Nick Brown saying with reverence, “rest in peace, Whitney Houston.” Rather than dwell on the sombre, Mona went straight to eleven from here, blasting out song after song in a frenzied yet still organised state of rock ‘n’ roll chaos. From the bombast of ‘Teenager’ to the irreverence of ‘Shooting the Moon’ (followed by my notebook getting ‘blessed’ by the stomp of Brown’s boot, then my near escaping decapitation by a wayward microphone), from newer song and anthemic ‘Pavement’ to crowd-pleaser and first single ‘Lean Into the Fall’, they hit the spot each and every time.

After Slow Club’s fabulous cover of Pulp’s ‘Disco 2000′ on Tuesday, I doubted anything could top that all year . Leave it to Mona to come back with an encore including a raucous rendition of the Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’ that resulted in a massive singalong in this little hole in the wall on H Street. This is the kind of music that runs through your veins and makes your heart beat race and soar, and you feel grateful to be alive. That’s the power and gift of good music. And my heart swelled with so much pride, seeing a band that I had helped in my own little way a long time ago by promoting their song ‘Listen To Your Love’ (see video below), coming of age and hitting their stride at just the right moment. The world is for their taking.

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2 Responses

4:15 pm
21st February 2012

Just wanted to make you aware of a great show this Saturday at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown DC. We rented it out and the Silver Liners are opening for Gringo Star out of Atlanta. Also, there is a special late night performance by a DJ coming down from NYC called VOODOO FARM.

You can sample music and buy a ticket here:

http://www.localheadphones.com/static/lopho/index.php/event/feb25hardrock

Hope you can make it, please email me with any questions.

Best,

John

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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