Old Monk is one of the first bands that I became aware of because of a post on BestNewBands.com, back in 2011 when our past writer Jesse wrote his review on the band, colloquially complimenting the band on their outstanding musicianship and instinctual genre-bending. Just from this description I felt that this was something I could be into and I would see them live if I got the chance. Alas, even though the band is Brooklyn-based, sometimes these things take time (and the right circumstance). So I might have been busy for the past couple years but I didn’t forget, and recently when the opportunity to check them out presented itself, I took it and…briskly strolled over to Matchless, where Old Monk delivered those “sudden time changes and off-kilter chord progressions” with a great deal of aptitude and energy. Basically, they rocked it hard.
Everything Jesse said in his review was true. Though maybe I wouldn’t necessarily say frontman Joshua Carrafa has gigantic hands, I will agree they sure know their way around a fretboard. It’s also true that any recorded material you may try to find online or elsewhere doesn’t have nearly the same impact as the real live in your face experience, but I also tend to feel that that should be the case. If you go to a show and think, “gosh, this isn’t nearly as good as when I’m in my room drinking a homemade spritzer and listening to their record on my vintage stereo,” well, then that band still has a good deal of work to do. With Old Monk, it’s much better to see their agility, with the way they stop start all together, only missing a beat when they mean to. These guys literally mixed it up in just about every tune they ran through, from the heavy blues “Skullsplitter” to the bouncier “Sacred Birds.” Where some bands rely on one great riff to carry the whole song, Old Monk puts several great riffs in one song.
Old Monk’s musical style is like punk played with prog-rock precision. That sounds like it would be counter-intuitive, but it just heightens the kamikaze ride their songs take on. I ran into Joshua for a brief moment after the show, and blurted out, “you listened to a lot of Pixies growing up, didn’t you?” “Yeah, and a lot of Black Sabbath” he shot back. And that’s pretty much exactly what it is – heavy riffs interspersed with spazzed out frenzy, then cooled off with fleeting calmness. In this way, their music finds a great balance of the cycle of human emotion and coping mechanisms. Things build up, you gradually feel crazier and crazier until you have to scream, and let it all out so you can find Zen again, but the crazy always creeps back in, because that’s life.
Like the perfect house party band that deserves even more than that, Old Monk is clever and talented, easy going and wild. They have a couple show dates planned for September, as well as updates on Facebook. Go like them and put a tune or two on your next house party mix too.
Photo By Kelly Knapp