Sunday, March 10, 2019

Bowing at the Feet of B-I-D Spells Bid

The Monochrome Set
Barboza, Seattle
March 5, 2019

What with dinner, dishes, homework, kids' lunches and a 6AM alarm call, it takes something pretty special to get me out on a Tuesday night. A rare sighting of the Monochrome Set on this side of the Atlantic, celebrating 40 years, no less, meant the plates would have to pile up just this once.

The show was to begin at 8, and that's when I arrived. I knew there was an opening act, and an unfamiliar record store down the block called to me like a siren. When I had broken out of my trance, it was 8:30, and I dashed to the quaint little basement venue. There was only one person in front of me trying to get in, and he told the gatekeeper he was with the band. She eyed the distinguished gentleman up and down suspiciously and asked with doubt, "You're with the band?" Even from the back I could tell it was Bid. I sidled beside him, put my hand on his shoulder and told her, "Believe me, he's with the band. He's been with the band since before you were born." He looked at me, smiled at her and asked, "So, I'm with the band then?" She waved him through, and I had a brief but memorable encounter with my musical hero.

Turns out the opening band still hadn't gone on yet, and I was able to walk right up to the stage. I held my ground on this 1 sq. ft. piece of property as if my life depended on it and never moved again for the rest of the evening. The opener eventually introduced themselves. "We're the Purrs and we're from down the street." For the next 30 minutes or so this quartet made me feel like the guy being blown away on those iconic Maxell ads. Two songs in I noticed the guy standing beside me stuffing Kleenex in his ears. I envied him. Don't get me wrong. There was nothing wrong with this band, and the crowd seemed to appreciate their efforts. Their sound was just made for much bigger rooms, and my delicate indie-pop sensibilities and auditory nerves were shaken by the assault.

As the Monochrome Set were setting up (yes, they took care of their own gear), I couldn't help but wonder how they were feeling. As the tour poster above attests, the lads played New York the night before. That's nearly 3,000 miles, folks. In case you're a fan who has lost track and are wondering about the personnel these days, the most recognizable name to you outside of Bid would be Andy Warren on bass. He's been with the Monochrome Set off and on since 1980. Keyboard wizard John Paul Moran has been around off and one since the reformation in 2010. No, Lester Square was not there. He was part of the reformation as well but left after recording the 'Spaces Everywhere' album in 2014. Mike Urban behind the kit is the newest member, but even he was in the band briefly in 1990.

Shockingly, the show was not a sellout, but the room was fairly full and definitely full of enthusiasm. Just the right age group too. Some of you know what I mean. Feeling like the old man in the room has become tiresome. I went to this show solo, which can be a drag, but these were my people. I wanted to become friends with all of them. I wanted to scream, "I can't believe you're all from Seattle! Where have you been?" I read that tickets had not sold briskly on the East Coast, and one fan on social media claimed the Bowery Ballroom had been 75-80 percent empty. I hope that was an exaggeration, but at one point Urban told us with a big smile that they had just come from the East Coast and that this was better. Since we were the first show on the West Coast, we could take that as a huge compliment.

On to the set list. As you can see, they dove right into the classic era with the first three songs and, as you would expect, latest album 'Maisieworld' received a fair representation. That was fine by me. Like all of their albums this decade, it's a beautiful piece of work. I would have been fine if every note of 'Eligible Bachelors' would have been played, but I'll take the trio they ripped through.

After 17 songs and an impending car ride to Portland ahead of them, you would have thought they would have said goodbye after the crowd-pleasing 40-year-old "Eine Symphonie des Grauens," but there was encore after encore. "Goodbye Joe" was my personal highlight until they came out for what was to be the last time. Bid and the gang seemed perplexed as they scanned a tablet trying to figure out if they could come up with even one more song they knew. Someone nearby shouted, "Jacob's Ladder!" To say the room was encouraging is an understatement. Bid rolled his eyes, sighed, and said with a chuckle, "I wrote it, but I'm not sure I played it." They gave it the ol' college try, with Moran hitting the difficult bass vocal parts with perfection. Bid got a case of the giggles here and there as he attempted to conjure up the lyrics, but it was a damn fine rendition and the topper of the night for me. Their last song was the first song I ever heard by them (34 years ago!) and the one I wanted to hear the most.

I ran into Bid outside a few minutes later and was able to tell him, "Best Tuesday ever."

'Fin' is a 1986 release of live performances spanning the Monochrome Set's career through 'The Lost Weekend' era. Seems like a few from that one is the most appropriate to listen to today.

Jacob's Ladder ('Eastern Eye,' March 19, 1985)
Alphaville (Electric Ballroom, May 23, 1985)
Eine Symphonie Des Grauens (Bristol Trinity Hall, May 21, 1980)


The Swede said...

It's always a joy to read of your adventures picking up unexpected vinyl treasures around your neck of the woods and on your travels, but this live show review is next level. What an absolute treat for you. My equivalent would be something like if Ed Kuepper pitched up at my local village hall for the evening. I had a warm glow reading every single line of this post and actually laughed out loud at your '...he's been with the band since before you were born...' quip. Bravo Brian, bravo.

Echorich said...

I am ridiculously jealous Brian!
Two encounters with one of Post Punk's great wordsmiths, as well as seeing them live in 2019!
Just beside myself with jealousy.
If I could have yelled out an encore choice it would have been I'll Scry Instead, or possibly Suddenly, Last Autumn.

Brian said...

Very kind words, Swede. Thanks for that. You sure know your Aussies, Swede. I can think of a few from that part of the world I would like to see show up around here as well.

Echorich, You have made me jealous many many more times than I have of you, I assure you. I'll Scry Instead is my absolute favorite song by the Monochrome Set. I put together a 15-song mix of their work the day after the show and opened the whole thing with that one.


Just read this, after being linked from another blog. Just wanted to say that the East Coast shows did sell well, around 200 plus or so at each, so considering it was March, with rain, hail and snowstorms every night, I thought that was pretty good.

Post-Punk Monk said...

Well, paint me as ridiculously jealous of Echorich on principle. Anyone who grew up in NYC had the world of music at their fingertips such as a yokel in Orlando could only dream of. But now I'm also intensely jealous of you for having the chance to see…in America, my latest obsession. Looking at their tour dates, I still can't believe that they have so many in North America at least planned. We'll see if they transpire.

chas_m said...

There was one song in the second encore from this show that I can't quite remember -- it was between Silicon Carne and Fat Fun, and all I can recall of it was everyone saying "hey" a lot.

Any recollections?