Okay, things are ALMOST back to normal. Last week would have normally been featuring a review of a concert that I attended. However, with the advent of the amazing reunion with my sons, everything took a back seat. This week, things will be making their way back to some semblance of normality. That being said, today will be my review of the concert featuring Island in the Sun and Monkey Wrench. This double-bill paid tribute to Weezer and Foo Fighters (respectively). After seeing this show, J-Fell might have a predicament. Harefest is already a jam packed music extravaganza. However, with the top quality 90s bands coming online, he might have to have an 80s day and a 90s day if things continue to bloom in the talent pool like they seem to be doing.
This was my first time seeing Island in the Sun. The lineup lists two drummers on their page and I’m not sure which one was featured on this night, but the sound was solid from top to bottom. Matthew Masini (Vocals & Guitars) does an excellent job of slipping into his role. Besides having fantastic vocals that were often spot on in his effort to sound like the “real thing”, he just had that nerdy frontman blueprint down solid. Joe Ebner (Guitars & Vocals) is a musician that I have seen in some of the other Tributes and his guitar work never disappoints. Keeping with the band image, even his solos were couched in context with the music and not spotlight stealers. Randy Gerhart (Bass & Vocals) helps fill out the vocal sound while working as one half of the engine that keeps the band in step. Mattie Hancock (Drums) or Tyler Jorenby (Drums) kept time and drove the car through its paces. Bonus points for their light show (despite a few technical glitches with it at times). It really did add to the experience and made for a great start to the evening.
This is now the third or fourth time I have been able to catch Monkey Wrench. This band never disappoints and plays every set like the room is packed with rabid fans. The energy is contagious and something that any lovers of the Foo would appreciate.
One of the things about Foo Fighters songs is the frenetic rhythm. Hitting the marks here can be a daunting task, but fortunately, Monkey Wrench has Christian Smith on Drums/Back up Vox. If you catch these guys, do yourself a favor and watch him behind his kit for a song or two. Don’t let his easy going outward appearance fool you…he is a maniac behind the drums and a blast to watch.
KC Peters on Bass and Back up Vox is the other half of the Monkey Wrench rhythm section and does an excellent job of nailing those underlying vocals that help fill out the sound. Add in the fact that his bass playing is solid and energetic and he is a performer that you might overlook, but you would notice right away if he was missing.
Chris Beltran on Guitars and Back up vox plays like he was born with a guitar in his hand. He is so laid back and casual even when he is soaring through a lead riff. You won’t find dark and brooding or gruff and fierce on his side of the stage. From start to finish, you just know that he loves what he is doing. He is all smiles even as his fingers fly over the fretboard. You won’t find “close replications” of the leads you know and love from the Foo Fighters albums. The sound is spot on and it is pretty much note-for-note. That is by design, and from talking to the band, it is something each of them strives for.
Jon Johnson on Guitars and Lead Vox is the face of the band. Most Tribute Bands and the fans will tell you that the vocals have to carry the sound. Fans might not pick up a missed note or slipped rhythm here and there, but if the vocals are not being nailed, the band doesn’t stand a chance. JJ has the ferocity of David Grohl down pat and is at his best on songs like Pretender and Best of You. If I had to give him one critique, it would be in the more melodic songs like Everlong. Don’t get me wrong, his vocals are really good. I’ve seen other Foo Tributes, and Monkey Wrench runs circles around them–especially on cuts like Pretender where JJ shines. However, now that I’ve seen this band a few times, I felt like I had to at least give JJ something to chew on.
This is one of a handful of bands that I try to never miss. If you haven’t seen them yet…I’m sure it is just a matter of time. Who knows…maybe a Tribute Tuesday is in their future. If so, you can bet I’ll be doing everything I can to be there. And seriosuly, this band and some of the others like Plush, Island in the Sun, and a couple of others are making a strong case for a 90s Day at a future Harefest, or, at the least, one of those amazing J-Fell parties at the Crystal Ballroom.