The Best Show I Ever Saw Was at Spaceland

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I didn’t know one song, and I still have no idea what I heard.

It didn’t matter what the band’s name was.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t know any of their songs, any of the lyrics or even one person in the trio.

They were three shirtless, hairy, frenetic men who were all older than the audience, but filled with so much life. And they were determined to shove it all down our throats.

The singer of Monotonix stands on top of a divider and sings to the crowd in his underwear. Photo by Tony Pierce.

Spaceland in 2009 was the perfect venue for Monotonix, who are from Israel, who broke every rule. It was perfect because this band climbed upon every surface inside the club: the weird divider between the dance floor and the bar, the back merch area and the soundboard risers near the bathrooms. A few years later, I’d see them at the Echoplex, which was way too big. They were best in-your-face. Literally. They spray it, they don’t say it. Spaceland was just like one of the beds from “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” It was just right.

It was just right for up ‘n coming bands, it was just right for the “it” groups of the moment — that we’ve now forgotten — and it was just right for big acts who wanted to slum it up in the unassuming club.

We knew we were in trouble when the band set up the drum set in the middle of the floor and moved their amps to the front of the stage.

Monotonix singer Ami Shalev is hoisted up by the crowd as he sits on a drum seat in his underwear while holding two drum sticks. Photo by Tony Pierce.

Soon, there was a crazy man singing, a guitarist shredding and beer flying. The singer, Ami Shalev, literally snatched up unprotected beers and poured them on himself and everyone around him.


Shalev was a mix between Animal from “The Muppets” and a character from the “B.C.” comic strip. Was he animatronic? He was so life-like. Was it a mirage? A hologram? Did he live under the house?

At one point, Shalev grabbed a garbage can and dumped it over the drummer, and he still didn’t miss a beat.

Neither did the crowd. A charitable lad removed the plastic container from the drummer and put it on his own head.

Anarchy can be contagious.

The Spaceland audience was all-in, except for those on the stage, the only safe place in the building. When the singer jumped on some guy’s shoulders, he got no pushback. When he motioned to another guy to grab the snare drum and hold it up, the order was obeyed.

There was no bad seat or good seat, nobody was singing along, no one shouted requests.

Monotonix play in the middle of the dance floor at Spaceland. Photo by Tony Pierce.

The musical form as we knew it was being reinvented with a swift kick to the head by cartoon characters come to life, a band no one ever dared to follow.

But like mitochondria, where Shalev went, the crowd went. Cautiously. Would we, too, turn insane and completely free if we followed? God willing.

Soon, everyone was near the bar famous for large glass mugs the shape of boots. And just as quickly, many were being baptized in a shower of swizzle sticks, straws and napkins.

The Monotonix experience. Photo by Tony Pierce.

Everything must go.

Next, we marveled as the singer balanced on a different audience member, using the light rig on the ceiling as a cowbell.

These sweaty aliens from Elsewhere had obviously landed on Earth and discovered rock music and skipped the part about How Things Should Be. There was not a dry shirt in the house due to PBR, tears of joy, tears of laughter and a frontman who blew snot rockets at cameramen.

The trio had stripped down to their briefs when no one was looking, a near-impossibility because all eyes were everywhere since the singer was in one place, the drummer was over in another and the guitarist was only content when he was atop the rickety, uneven tables. No matter — the angels would hold him up. They loved whatever this was too.

The weird thing was the music was actually good. Heavy, guitar-based grooving rock — but none of it mattered. Nothing at all mattered. One minute, you’re looking toward the “stage” the next you were totally turned around and ducking to avoid flying debris.

Monotonix had turned all the world into a stage.

In the best club in town.

Whose secret weapon was that back smoker’s room where, if you stood on one corner of it, you could hear the people talking in the opposite side.

But if anyone was in there that night, they woulda said, “What on God’s green Earth is happening out there?”

Swizzle sticks strewn about on the dirty floor next to the bar at Spaceland. Photo by Tony Pierce.


Editor’s note: The venue The Satellite was called Spaceland up until 2011. The performance with Monotonix took place in 2009, when it was still Spaceland.

Los Angeleno