March 4, 2011
Concert Photos By:Whitney Bragagnolo
Comprised of Ben Graupner, Jackson Rathbone, Jerad Anderson, Ben Johnson and Uncle Larry, Los Angeles based 100 Monkeys appeared at the Venue Friday evening here in Vancouver; a band described by SPIN.com as “funk rock” as well as by RollingStone.com as “tribal sounds with vocals recalling Jim Morrison’s baritone croon.”
After arriving at the solely women populated Venue, my skepticism for the loyal Monkey fan base, and why they were really there, was still not in the bands favour. With split press between their talent and their easy road to success due to Rathbone's popularity as an actor, I was wondering where I would stand after the concert.
Prior to the show, their publicist told me Rathbone would not be attending as there was problems on the set of Twilight in Squamish and he was running behind. I was curious to see how the room would take the news as Graupner nervously grabbed the mic and told the fans he had both good and bad news: “The good news is, you are getting TWO shows tonight”, and the room erupted, “the bad news is, Jackson is stuck on set so he won’t be joining us until the second show”. To my surprise, there were no boos, no one left, and as each member took the stage one by one, the cheers got louder and louder. Interesting.
They opened the show with Graupner on vocals and played a song off their album Grape, “Wings on Fire”. The guys immediately won the crowd over with their charismatic performance; their energy and enthusiasm were definitely commendable. 100 Monkeys lived up to their trademark “monkey switcheroo” changing instruments and vocals nearly every other song during their sets. They definitely were swinging around the stage with a passion for their music, and the love and happiness they deliver to their fans via their tracks was certainly contagious. The fans were also taking part in the switcheroo as lead vocalists, as at times their sing-a-longs were louder than the whole band. They were actively involved with all the elements of the show and were extremely familiar with most of the material. They chanted and sang along with what seemed to be even the most obscure tracks from the 100 Monkey catalogue all while pushing closer and closer to the stage, they really wanted to be a part of the show.
At times it seemed as though the band was a bit unorganized, and lacked structure, this could have been due to the fact they were playing one man short. Nonetheless, due to the fact that improvisation is one of their key elements, and with their jazz influences they did manage to carry on quite effortlessly as a quartet despite having little preparation to arrange any changes needed due to Rathbone's absence. However, that is a pivotal part of the genre, you never really play the same piece of music the same way, and depending upon the mood, experience, interactions and chemistry with the other musicians and fans things may just change on purpose. I did feel glad to see the show without Rathbone. It was somewhat bittersweet.
I caught myself more often than not observing “Uncle Larry” as he beat away at the bongos, as the gold rim on his glasses kept catching the spotlight; it was almost as bright as his smile which swept across his face every time he got into a new song. For most of the show he sat and played with head back, transfixed in the moment, lost in the music, an inspiring representation of a soul entrenched with jazz foundations. One of the definitive highlights of the show was easily "Strangers", a raunchy, funk-rock cover of the band’s late friend Spencer Bell, where Graupner commanded the crowd, as his soulful bluesy voice resonated through the room as he vigorously clenched the microphone and wailed away.
Eccentric by the characters they personify on stage, as well as how they play their music, to add even more to the mix the band improvises a song each set and jams out a tune complete with lyrics, verses and a chorus, which was somewhat a unique and refreshing idea to see in a live performance. I really enjoyed watching them change up their instruments, it shows dedication to their craft, one that requires constant learning, upkeep and is definitely entertaining. I left the show pleasantly impressed, uplifted and glad I was proven somewhat wrong as; although they may be lucky having an A-lister bring them more attention, the good press the quintet receives is absolutely deserved and the hundredth monkey effect carries on.