Silver Jews @ First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia

I’ll admit that I was mostly ignorant of the sounds and theatrics of Monotonix and Silver Jews prior to attending their show. Despite a little research beforehand, I didn’t know what I was getting into, and while I definitely entered the First Unitarian Church with high expectations (David Berman, an unbelievably awesome poet is, after all, the front man of Silver Jews), I was for the most part completely (and pleasantly) surprised.

Monotonix, a group from Tel Aviv, began the night with their set up in front of the stage instead of on it. Their curly fros and short shorts immediately engaged everyone, and when they started playing, the crowd went crazy. Although slightly hesitant at first, perhaps due to the unexpected mooning of the crowd by singer Ami Shalev, gradually the intensity of the music and talent of all three of the musicians had everyone clapping and dancing.

Ami Shalev, Yonatan Gat

After a short while, they moved their set up further into the crowd; over and over they dragged the carpet square with the drums on it towards the back of the room as the crowd circled around them. As Shalev repeatedly put things on the drummer Ran Shimony’s head, from the snare drum to a trash can, the drummer seemed totally unphased while guitarist Yonatan Gat smiled on, and they played just as well all along. Songs included, “Set Me Free” and at least two others I didn’t understand any words to but could tell when they were different songs.

Ran Shimony

Although a very different kind of band with a very a different sound, it didn’t seem incongruous to have Monotonix open for Silver Jews. If anything, they complimented each other, as the energy radiating from both groups was contagious. After throwing candy into the crowd, Berman began singing “Smith and Jones Forever” in his voice that reminds me of a cross between Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler but reminded my friend sweating along side of me in the church basement of Leonard Cohen.

David Berman

David Berman

Their stage performance consisted largely of standing around while playing, but the crowd was wild for them anyhow. Keeping with my expectations of poetics from Berman, he introduced several songs with poignant lines; before playing “Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed” for example, Berman appropriately said, “No one gives a damn so you have to give a damn,” and before “My Pillow is the Threshold” he said, “If you’re out there trying to be an artist or something, don’t wait for affirmation. You won’t get it.”

, Cassie Berman

Cassie Berman (right)

Despite the negativity of his comments, however, Berman and his band mates were clearly having a blast on stage. At times Berman nuzzled the bassist, his wife Cassie, during the love songs, and each member of the six-person band played with intensity and energy throughout. Great show. Go see both bands if you can. Seriously.

Silver Jews: website | myspace
Monotonix: website | myspace

Words and Photos by: Rebecca S. Brown

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