Mona: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA 11/20/11

Nick Brown, lead singer and guitarist of the Nashville-by-way-of-Ohio-based rock group Mona, hasn’t broken a string in six months, but this evening at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia he’s already broken two in back to back songs; it doesn’t seem to bother him the least.  There’s an edge to Mona’s sound and band complexion, greatly elevated by Brown’s attitude and energy, comparable to The Clash’s Joe Strummer with a faint similarity in the style made public more recently by the Kings of Leon.  “Hold on a second, our bass amp is fucked,” Brown says with a Southern drawl in the most uninhibited way possible as the quartet overcomes some minor technical problems getting bassist Zach Lindsey’s amp to work properly just before the set.  He explains that the night before at the Orpheum Theater in Boston, Mona’s van window was smashed in, but none of these blockages hindered this forceful unit from brining anything but determination and unrestraint onstage.

Mona debuted earlier this year with the release of their self-titled album, a collection of tracks that demonstrates their live sound within the confines of the studio, especially on songs like “Listen To Your Love” and “Shooting The Moon.”  The opening overdriven riff and streaming lead counterpart in “Listen To Your Love” complement each other well, relatable to that of the Followhill collective’s “Radioactive,” though Mona’s sound seems more sustaining.  Mona’s approach when they step onstage is like a “with us, or against us” type of mentality that appears to be converting fans with each performance.  As Brown spits exhaust high into the air an aggressiveness is added to the delivery and stage presence, but not so in a way that is distracting or ill-fitting, it further defines the image and hard-edged personality of the band. 

Throughout their set, Mona’s stored energy escaped in synch with the music and the effort that was put into the live instrumentation.  Each member raged individually on their instrument in a way that is completely representative of their sound, and it definitely is effective.  Strong harmonies fill up and heighten the emotion leading up to the chorus on “Say You Will,” but recede back as the verses are pulled along by the thunderous drumming of Vince Gard.  

What is most exciting about Mona is that they are a band with an arena-sized sound that can deliver the overall message within any capacity.  Prior to entering into the closing piece of the night, “Lean Into The Fall,” Brown hinted at another album release set for the end of February, so it will be exciting to see which direction Mona takes their next career step in.  With his red semi-hollow guitar raised high above his head like an engaged fist, Nick Brown gestures to the audience and thanks them for being a part of the experience, distortion fuzz appropriately providing the post-set outro as the band exited the stage.    

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