The Troubadour is not quite where I expected it to be. As a somewhat recent transplant from the East Coast, Los Angeles is still a labyrinth. With an address in West Hollywood, I’m figuring it’s going to be another front along a strip of bars. No. The Troubadour is about five hundred feet from the edge of Beverly Hills on a predominantly residential stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard. Not the most rock ‘n’ roll place for a bar, but whatever.
It’s really quiet on the street, but that could be because (a) it’s the night of Memorial Day and (b)everyone in this part of L.A. is at a barbecue or up in wine country and clearly not spending the evening in the company of Mono, the Japanese contingent in the quest for post-rock glory. The band members obviously had no trouble finding the venue; the strains and ebbs of their sound is pounding against the doors as I’m waiting for the bouncer to check my ID. I’m glowing with anticipation, and as soon as I open the door, the music comes crashing down all around me.
For only being a four-piece, Mono’s sound is immense. What is particularly striking about the band’s live sound is that it has an element of coldness to it, which contradicts the warm connectedness between the band members onstage. For the opening movement of "The Flames Behind the Cold Mountain," from the recently released album You Are There, guitarist Takaakira "Taka" Goto is seated on a small stool, much like Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce, and bassist Tamaki, guitarist Yoda, and drummer Yasunouri Takada are huddled opposite him over a synthesizer, teasing the building strings out of the machine. It almost looks like they are a little family warming their hands over a fire. As the intro compounds and then fades away to Taka’s eerie guitar line, the others return to their respective instruments to unleash the rest of the song.
Tamaki is stunning in her flowing black dress, her skirt rippling around her, whirling around her legs as she’s swaying with her bass. They’re locked into a groove; the music is thundering all around them, but they are in a vacuum, and the rest of us can’t get in. I love the feel of the music crashing against me, and the rumbling in the floor gives the music physicality, shaking through my body. Eyes closed and tumbling in the music, I’m in some other place far from the cusp of Beverly Hills. I just wish I could go with Mono on its journey, rather than on my own way.
Mono Web site (streaming audio)