I’ve probably mentioned this in my reviews in the past, but Théâtre Fairmount has become one of my favourite venues in Montreal, and I think that entirely has to do with some of the musical acts I’ve seen here, like Deafheaven, Daughters, Sunn O))) and several more. I always have this weird expectation when I come here that I’ll experience something more than just a live show. And tonight, watching Mono with Emma Ruth Rundle would prove to be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen – not only at this venue but in all of Montreal.
I have to admit, my biggest motivation for going to this show was to see Emma Ruth Rundle. Aside from being in two previous bands I’ve loved called Red Sparowes and Marriages, over the years I’ve become a massive fan of the artists and bands from the Sargent House record label. Emma, along with Chelsea Wolfe, Lingua Ignota, Brutus and countless others make up one of the most incredible rosters of artists on any record label. Last year, Emma released an astonishing record titled On Dark Horses, so I was pretty stoked to hear some tracks live from that release. But, I had to wait just a bit longer. Emma and her band (consisting of members from another incredible Sargent House artist, Jaye Jayle) were a little late getting on stage due to some sound issues, and when they finally did, they had to re-do their soundcheck. This would cause them to start about 20 minutes later than they were supposed to, and I could tell the crowd was getting a tad anxious.
All of the anxiety went away as soon as they launched into “Races.” I suddenly realized there were a lot more people there that knew her music than I had expected, and that made me happy. Emma’s music has a way of washing over you like a refreshing water shower when you listen to any of her records, and somehow, she manages to evoke that feeling just as powerfully during her live show. The crowd was undoubtedly vibrating from low-frequency of Emma’s shoegaze, post-rock, indie blend of music, so much so that during “Protection,” it perhaps got a tad overwhelming for the group, so they had to stop for a second, figure out their place in the song, and continue where they left off. Emma would continue to play through songs spanning her last two records, On Dark Horses and Marked For Death, such as “Fever Dreams,” “Light Song,” the title tracks of both those records and finally, “Heaven,” which was a perfect closer for her set, because Heaven is certainly what it felt like watching Emma and her band play.
Mono was a brand new discovery for me. I am ashamed to admit that, despite this being a tour to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band, I had no idea who they were until a few months before the show. Hailing from Japan, Mono is an instrumental, post-rock band, but that’s probably the most basic, uninteresting way I could describe them because their music goes way beyond that. I did a bit of digging and discovered that they have a pretty hardcore fan base. People absolutely love this band, so I was eager to see what all the hype was about.
As soon as Mono launched into their opening track, “After You Comes The Flood,” it suddenly all fell into place for me. In a matter of seconds, I knew exactly why it was such a big deal to be seeing this band. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience feel so connected to the music. I didn’t spot a single person on their phone (for a change). Everyone was swaying to the music. “Death in Rebirth” was no different, as the post-rock, symphonic shoegaze elements of Mono’s music completely engulfed the crowd. When things slowed down during “Halcyon (Beautiful Days),” I saw a few couples slow dancing to the music – a sight I had never seen at a rock show and honestly, it was quite beautiful.
Mono truly write some epic songs. Most of their tracks hover around the 10-minute mark, so even though they only played eight songs, their set was well over an hour long. And what a set it was. Playing songs from records like Nowhere Now Here (their latest release), Hymn to the Immortal Wind and Requiem For Hell, the band certainly has a wealth of material to draw from. And what it a treat it was to get to hear these songs live. They sound amazing, and the way their songs start slow and build up to this incredible crescendo of atmospheric noise just has a way of enthralling an entire audience – and enthral us they did. If you want to have one of the most moving, musical experiences ever, go see Mono.
Written by Dominic Abate
Photography by Jean David Lafontant
*edited by Kate Erickson