Lorcan O'Brien 13/12/2010
When I arrived at The Cooler, I was disappointed by an almost empty bar. Just a few decidedly edgy looking characters milling around one of Bristol's best known small venues on the Monday night. But before too many bitter thoughts of how society never appreciates the underground or has time for independent bands entered my mind, there was an encouraging rush of punters just minutes before the support band, Flashguns, came onstage.
Having reviewed their latest single “Come and See The Lights” I was eager to see how Flashguns performed live. Contrary to many critics who see them as a record-only band, this far surpassed my expectations. Even in the relatively small crowd, the angsty mix of innocence and arrogance was infectious. The young four-piece achieved a certain amount of positive tension in the spectators. Agitated foot tapping and head nodding spread around as the short set progressed, it was clear that people wanted to move, but good old British inhibitions prevented all but a few from dancing in the sparse crowd. This performance made the studio track seem almost contrived in comparison; with all of the record's subtle nuances stripped away we're left with a much rawer, visceral experience. And we like it!
Mona is a band with so much hype you can practically grab it off the stage, plug it in and blast your own indie southern rock out at full volume. Speaking of which, they really did turn it up to eleven; both the gain and their energy were fully maxed out. As with any up-and-coming, the biggest challenge is living up to the sea of hype that surrounds them, for me they just didn't.
Often compared to early Kings of Leon and Stereophonics, they are a combination of post-britpop shoegaze and preacher-turned-southern-rocker with a bit of energetic edge. Now that doesn't sound bad at all does it? Most of the punters loved it; there was even the obligatory ultra-fan right at the front rocking out that little bit more than anyone else. Within the genre, Mona are brilliant, a tight performance, full of force and ego. However the core of the problem is that they are good, but not original. The standard Tennessee image and attitude was nothing short of predictable. Atmospheric riffs and abstract fx ridden guitars had a decent kick but ultimately ended up sounding formulaic.
If you want a lively set that ticks all the usual boxes, go and see Mona. If you want something with a bit more depth, buy a ticket to Flashguns in about six months when they have built up the fanbase they deserve. With a bigger crowd and a headline slot they could be truly exceptional.
Ultimately it looks like Mona are going to surf the tidal wave of hype into an inevitable wipeout of realisation that it's just not that unique. Still a bloody good show though.