Monday, January 23, 2012

The Mad Monks Celebrate Five Years Together

Last weekend (January 14th) the Mad Monks celebrated their five year anniversary of playing together as a band at Gabe's in Iowa City. Because of a prior engagement I was unable to attend, but this milestone has weighed heavily on my mind, and this feat deserves mention in the pages of the Bigfoot Diaries. The three times I have seen them play I was sent into sensory overload.

The Monks onstage almost seem to be a contradiction of sorts. At first glance they are three musicians who don‘t seem to fit together. Matt Larson has his untrimmed beard and his menacing scowl, and a bass guitar that seems to extend from his body as an additional appendage. It's his weapon of choice; a spine-tapping cosmic ray that engulfs the listener’s central nervous system, and time warps the mind back to the psychedelic blues explosion of the 1960s. It is an interesting juxtaposition along with his voice. While his bass tones are all encompassing, Larson’s vocals come at you through a different path on the cosmic wave hitting the deeper cores of the brain. The vocals are sharp, like a fanned blow dart, only instead of poison, these tips might as well be dipped in LSD. His bass play in conjunction with his vocals is hypnotizing. It’s an audio lobotomy, the equivalent of an aural brain stem.

Matt Larson
Then there is James Edel who’s appearance is more that of an aerospace engineer professor’s than that of a stage musician. But don’t judge this book by it‘s cover. He doesn’t look like one of the great guitar players in the galaxy, but that’s what he is. To underestimate his musical ability based off of his appearance is obviously a deliberate mind trick on the part of this spine melting axe-slinger. Simply put, Edel is a freaking alien. It’s that simple. His style, and the notes he conjures don’t come from this atmosphere… They can’t. He so effortlessly lifts notes from the neck of his guitar that at first it makes one might think that what he is doing is easy… that anyone could do what he does. But then he’ll go off on an extended solo and it'll hit you like a sledgehammer. WHAM! It’s a sight and sound to behold, the impossible notes he reaches for and finds on the fret of his Fender Strat. It’s uncanny, it’s unnatural, and it’s unearthly.

James Edel
And finally it's drummer Eric Dirks whom, upon appearance alone, seems to be the normal one in the group. Nothing extraterrestrial about him… Until he settles in behind his kit. He has been described as "almost playing jazz" from another writer on the Bigfoot Diaries staff (which, incidentally was a huge compliment on the part of Shep) but I personally don’t hear that so much, as far as style in the way Dirks plays. . What I do hear are compounded beats in time signatures that defy themselves, in the ever changing rhythms and directions that defines the music of the Mad Monks. This band doesn’t sit still, and it rarely hangs around in one particular signature of metered time for very long. It’s uncanny how well these guys know each other musically, and it’s especially apparent when the focus lies exclusively on Dirks. With him leading the charge, these guys have invented a sound that takes you beyond rock and roll as you know it, to a place where mind expansion shadows the ear, to a place of gratifying pleasure. All is right in this world of the Zen.

Eric Dirks
You won’t believe what you see, what you hear and what you feel. There are no contradictions and it's very obvious that these guys fit together. Watching any one of the Monks by themselves would be worth the price of admission.

Congratulations, fellas on five years. We're looking forward to many more.

See the Mad Monks live the next chance you get, and experience audio hypnosis for yourself.



Anonymous said...

Great article! Great band!

Larson said...

Your presence was missed, but the writeup is tremendous! Thanks much man.