Mono Men, Fireballs of Freedom, Feb. 22 at the Green Frog

By: Callous French

The Mono Men aren’t a band anymore, but with a good enough excuse every seven years or so, they can be persuaded to throw down a shit-hot hour-long set of garage rock antha. Estrus Records kitten Carl Ratliff’s recent 40th birthday presented just such an opportunity. The Green Frog was selected as a venue, and tickets for the rare event sold out on-line in 19 minutes.

Opening the show was Portland’s Fireballs of Freedom, another band who frequently marinated the stage of the storied 3B Tavern back in the Estrus heyday of the 1990s. Next was poet Chet Weise who during that era fronted the Quadrajets and the Immortal Lee County Killers.  The air in the club was humid with anticipation when the Monos finally mounted the stage just after 11pm.

Without nostalgic introduction the band bucked into the title track from its 1990 debut Stop Draggin’ Me Down and the room came fucking undone. Bellingham didn’t always know what it had in its own frontyard back in the day, but the appreciation level was sky high as the Mono Men worked their way through the first phase of the show, featuring songs from the first album as well as the first single Burning Bush. Unlike last time there was a good enough excuse to put the band back together, the lineup included original second guitarist Marx Wright, an early collaborator on Estrus with Dave Crider back in the late 1980s. Former 3B owner Aaron Roeder on drums and Ledge Morrisette on bass, yep.

Chronologically appropriately, Marx handed his guitar & vocal duties off to John Mortensen as the band shifted into songs from the Wrecker period. Beer was flying by this point, the Monos steering through “Watch Outside” and “Testify” before gearing down low for the fan favorite Kim Salmon-penned “Swampland.”

You wouldn’t know these guys hardly ever even see each other, let alone rehearse. While it is true that most of this catalog has only three chords, the material seemed familiar yet fresh– spirited and relevant. And really fucking loud. The songs were tight, yet the atmosphere was relaxed– except for all the sweating and screaming and fist-pumping. The scene was kind of a rock ‘n’ roll high school class reunion with a lot of hugging between old friends who didn’t see each other enough. A bracket of songs from 1994’s Sin & Tonic signaled the end of the set proper.

“This is the part of the set we like to call ‘you asked for it,’” announced Crider as the band launched into a punishing 2-song encore of “Slammer” and “Wimp.” And then it was over. At least for here; at least for now. It’s a bit of work to put this together for one 60-minute set, so expect to see the Mono Men in a Latin-speaking country near you later this year.