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LIVE: Monakis / Play Dead / Jar Of Blind Flies – The Black Heart, Camden, London, 24/04/2024

You know it’s a big show when the band’s singer gets a tattoo to mark the occasion. On his bum, no less.

(Good thing it’s at the Black Heart in Camden, and not, say, the Invisible Wind Factory in Liverpool. “There you go, mate – Wind Factory, Invisible. That’ll be £200 please.”)

Monakis have been building nicely towards this why-does-my-arse-hurt occasion over the last eighteen months or so. They have had a solid following in their hometown of Brighton for a while, but with large tours supporting Kid Kapichi and SNAYX under their belts – plus an explosive debut EP, Vol 1 – they are starting to make an impression nationwide.

They have brought a stellar lineup with them for their biggest headline show to date. Fellow Brightonians Jar Of Blind Flies lead off, and while the grunge element to their sound is no surprise (Jar Of Flies having been the title of an Alice In Chains EP), there is more than a touch of the industrial stylings of Nine Inch Nails too.

Opener ‘Not Your Baby’ is probably their heaviest track yet, a bludgeoning slice of metal aggression, reminiscent of Witch Fever. Like much of their music, it feels a little uncomfortable to listen to, which is no bad thing at all, and there is enough melody in there to ease its passage through.

Vocalist Maddy Jarvis looks like a real star in the making, showing great range on her impassioned vocals. On ‘Little Bo Creep’ she adds a maniacal laughter to the title lyric in the chorus which is utterly brilliant; a wise young man near me notes that between that and her Margot Robbie-like appearance, it is like having Harley Quinn up there singing. Quite marvellous.

Next up are London punks Play Dead. On the musical spectrum this band sits somewhere between The Reytons and Soft Play, writing witty observational satires about modern British life, and it would be no surprise if they end up being just as big as those two bands.

Tonight’s chaotic set sees them roll through the best bit of their three EPs to date, with highlights being ‘Thameslink’, an ode to being priced out of living in London and doomed to commuter life on the train network of the same name, and ‘Barbershop’, a tale of male woe at the hairdressers. “I look in the mirror, my hair is so much shitter, he’s done me over, I didn’t ask for a combover.” Brilliant – go see them now before they get huge.

Then Monakis come on, and it is quickly apparent that the sellout audience in situ at the Black Heart is right up for it. Right from the opening bars of opener ‘DripTease’, the moshpit is enveloping most of the room, and that’s how it stays.

Monakis have always been an excellent live band, but the addition of a second guitarist, Deri Bovaird, has really helped enhance their live sound, fierce and raw. Songs like ‘War’ and ‘White Rabbit’ now sound like anthems, absolute firebrands.

The band seem to have a real swagger about them these days, as exemplified by the setlist for tonight’s show. Most bands would have just played all their old favourites for their biggest headline show to date, but Monakis take the opposite approach, playing five or six completely new songs alongside their most recent releases.

On another night, for another band, this could be a huge mistake, but not tonight. The new songs, a couple of which were apparently written within the last few days, are incredibly strong, with one being markedly slower and heavier than their previous work, while others are explosive garage rock tunes. The crowd certainly don’t seem to mind at all, reacting with just as much excitement to the new material as they do to the songs off Vol 1.

The crowd, frankly, is absolutely mental, with multiple crowdsurfers walking across the Black Heart ceiling, and a particularly amusing moment where two right-foot black shoes manage to detach themselves from their owners simultaneously, causing much confusion all around. Big shout out to Play Dead, who are lead rabble-rousers.

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Monakis guitarist Aaron Butler (white shirt) joins the chaos in the pit.

Closing with the absolute mayhem of ‘Say What You Want’, the victory is well-and-truly won. A night that will long live in the memory of those present.

Of course, by the time the show is over, they have already announced their next biggest headline show, in November at the Camden Assembly down the road. That venue has twice the capacity of the Black Heart, but don’t bet against them selling out that one too once word has spread about this one. Monakis shows are fast heading towards ‘unmissable’ status.

Draw me up a Camden Assembly tat, Mr Tattoo Man. My arse is your canvas.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.