The atmosphere is positively jovial tonight; I keep bumping into smiling strangers saying 'hallo!' a lot. How lovely. This kind of empathic rapport is what makes festivals so community-spirited, but here tonight - in a mere two-hour period - an all-consuming joie de Monster Magnet seems to have enchanted Koko's. Blimey, some people have even moved to give me a better view. What on earth is going on? Monster Magic?
Added to this, running into the very people I last saw the band with sixteen years ago, this is a particularly satisfying night. We chuckle nostalgically about how shitfaced we were last time we saw them, just after 'Dopes To Infinity' came out. However, being slightly more together this time around doesn't make a damn bit of difference to the 'Monster Magnet effect'. Stoned, straight, pissed, sober, hallucinating, clear-headed, whatever, it really doesn't matter. The natural buzz of a Monster Magnet gig, particularly this one - comprising the whole of 'Dopes To Infinity' and more - doesn't cost more than the ticket price and a few beers.
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'Dopes To Infinity' is still regarded as the
seminal Monster Magnet album, despite the cult classic success of the heavier, headier 'Spine Of God'. 'Dopes...' gleaned the chart-hitting 'Negasonic Teenage Warhead' - but soddit who cares about the bloody charts?! The album oozes anthemic stoner rock classics and this, presumably, is why they've decided to showcase it sixteen years after its inception. Besides, there's a new generation who weren't there to see them perform the likes of 'Look To Your Orb For The Warning', 'Dead Christmas', 'Ego, The Living Planet' et al first time around. Hence the mix of age groups here tonight.
The steam rising from the pit says it all: the amount of energy - both physical and mental - being expended is tangible (specially when flying beads of sweat hit me in the eye...lovely
). I can feel
the surge, like an electrical charge, kickstarting instant, manic response as one familiar hook, line and rhythm (couldn't find anything to rhyme with 'sinker', dammit!) pours from the stage. Ripe for the moshing!
Interestingly, a - erm - larger-than-I-remember Dave Wyndorf and his evolved band (which now includes Garrett Sweeny from Magnet offshoot Riotgod) aren't playing the album in order. Well, yeah, 'Dopes...' isn't a prog album and this isn't 'The Wall' live. The rearrangement makes for a better live set.
So having opened, quirkily, with the album's last track, 'Vertigo' (a surprisingly appropriate launchpad), and slamming straight afterwards into the gutbusting 'I Control, I Fly', they lead a zigzag yet totally cohesive pathway through the album. Hair flies everywhere - sweat city indeed!
By the time they take a short break after an hour or so onstage, I'm guessing the album's moshing highlight, 'Negasonic Teenage Warhead', is gonna turn up soon, as it's notably missing from the first half...
...and this brief intermission as I queue at the bar seems an appropriate time to make a quick note about a particularly memorable live 'Negasonic...' moment:
At Reading '95, desperately gripping my then-boyfriend's head as I balanced precariously on his shoulders - managing, miraculously, to stay aloft despite the mad pogoing going on down below. If he hadn't been bald, I would've ripped all his hair out...
But they're back. So - indeed, appropriately, given its massive, dynamic riffage, 'Negasonic...' blasts open the second half of the set, slithering in like a snake before proclaiming with its thunderous chorus 'I will deny you!'
. I could listen to this forever, but then it's 'Hallucination Bomb' (from 'Mastermind'), the mighty 'Powertrip' and, finally, gloriously, 'Spacelord' (both from the 'Powertrip' album). The mass chanting from down front that's greeted every headtripping number so far has now drifted to the back as we all shout gleefully "spacelord mutherfuckerrrrrr!", reaching a crescendo that, frankly, should've blasted the roof off. Like a rocket.
And then it's over. Only downer of the night was the ridiculously early stage time, which meant some of my friends missed half the gig (but arrived just before 'Negasonic...', so they were happy). 8pm on a Friday night, with a 10pm curfew - for what? A barely-attended after-gig club. Still, every second of this gig was exquisite, the bon hommie at a positive high by the time the last chords of 'Spacelord' died away, and the night is young...
Monster Magnet: the same ominous, throbbing, living machine they ever were. Spacey, yet meaty. Erm: pigs in space?
I Control, I Fly
Look To Your Orb For The Warning
Dopes To Infinity
All Friends & Kingdom Come
Ego, The Living Planet
Blow 'Em Off
Theme From Masterburner
King Of Mars
Negasonic Teenage Warhead