If Ami Shalev, singer of Israeli thrill-rock trio Monotonix, says jump, you jump.
His epic, Tel Aviv-based punk band mesmerized and excited a crowd of previously complacent onlookers at this weekend’s Treasure Island Festival in San Francisco. The second the band set up, it was apparent they were set apart from the rest of the day’s acts, mostly veering towards lush, beautiful but ultimately moshless indie music.
The drummer laid out his set on the ground, meaning the actual grassy dirt ground (above a flimsy rug), just below the actual stage. Patiently waiting, with my feet nearly touching the drums, my heart was pounding. That’s how much I love this band.
The moment Monotonix began, the crowd shook with collective excitement. A shirtless and bearded Shalev tore through the crowd, racing back and forth through the throng, climbing atop people and striking glorified rock star poses, all while singing.
Halfway through the set, he took a break from the frenzied hollers, and addressed the crowd: “We’re from Israel and we come in peace!” – the crowd cheered – “When I say ‘Shalom’ you say ‘Shalom!’” It was a moment of pride for us, the (likely) few Jews in this crowd.
Whatever your politics, it felt good to be in San Francisco and hear a massive group of secular music fans screaming “Shalom!”
Shalev later inexplicably instructed the crowd to follow him in an a cappella version of The Beatles’ "A Hard Day's Night” (which we did) and crouch on the cold, wet ground (which we also did).
I heard a few jeers amongst the incredulous bystanders – “he says to do stuff then everyone does it?” Yes, that’s precisely it, you bitter audiophile. Someone with Shalev’s spunk and fun sprit says jump, and we say how high. Not because he asked, but because we want to.