Ex-Monotonix guitarist Yonatan Gat returned to the Bug Jar in Rochester and thoroughly scrambled the minds of all in attendance without ever taking the stage. The band set up, as they do for all of their shows regardless of venue, in the middle of the floor. Everyone always yearns to be as close to the stage as possible, and here they had the opportunity to be on the stage. Gat’s trio includes Gal Lazer, playing some of the most frenetic drums outside of the Muppet universe, and Sergio Sayeg holding down the fort on a powerfully grooving bass.Each member of the band is illuminated by a single floor lamp. Gat is lit with a red gel, the others bathed in green. Whenever a musician is playing the light remains on. When they take a break, whether it be just 5 seconds or a full minute, the light turns off. It’s somewhat of a mental improvisational exercise for the musicians. In addition to concentrating on they and their mates are playing, they also need to pay attention to their lighting. What at first feels a little gimmicky, is actually also a musical enhancement for the audience as well. Once privy to their system, you come to anticipate the next move. Like some Pavlovian experiment, when you see the light turn back on (particularly when it’s Lazer’s) you’re fully ready for the music to immediately turn up a notch.
Entirely instrumental, save for short period, on this evening, of indistinguishable chanting, is a world-infused psychedelic rock that is equal parts head-banging and head-swirling. In a nearly non-stop set they weaved in and out of themes from their 2015 release, Director. Melodies from “East to West,” “Casino Café” and “Theme From a Dark Party” all made their way into the ether over the course of an all-too short 40 minute set.
Improvisational bands often speak of connecting with their audience in ways that enhance the experience for musicians and on-lookers alike, giving each performance it’s own unique flavor. When the band exists within the audience, this effect is all the more apparent and effective. Though when you invite the crowd into your space, you certainly run some risk. As so happened on this night. An inebriated man stepped up and tried his hand at some unintelligible shout-singing into Gat’s mic. As it’s always interesting to see how a class comedian can handle a heckler, it was also telling to see how this one played out. The band initially worked the “singing” into it’s improv, jamming along with him, Gat seeming particularly amused with the ordeal. But when he overstayed his welcome, Lazer, taking advantage of the close-knit staging, reached out from his kit and quickly and forcefully grabbed the mic stand, ripping it to the ground without missing a beat. Problem solved.
With the short set and no encore, the crowd, easily doubled from Gat’s show last fall, left only wanting more. And when they come back, the audience will likely double in size again, to witness what is a wholly unique must-see live music experience.