Words and Photos by Nicholas Stock
Night 1 – Esteban’s
There’s something new on the musical horizon and it goes by the name of paris_monster. The brainchild of longtime friends Josh Dion and Geoff Kraly, paris_monster has been a New York City secret since 2012. Playing out occasionally this project has now evolved into a full-fledged touring machine with stops across North America and Europe. Paris_monster is not your grandmother’s electro-funk soul duo. It’s as if James Brown and Clyde Stubblefield joined Kraftwerk in the 1970’s for an avant-garde funk party. Dion’s soulful vocals are the anchor to this rhythm section on steroids. They performed for 3 nights along the Front Range and I was lucky enough to catch them in Boulder at Esteban’s and in Fort Collins at The Whiskey. Here is the skinny.
Esteban’s is the attached offshoot of The Lazy Dog in Boulder that features a full array of tequila and weekly live music. They invited locals Banshee Tree to get the night started. Music began right around 10 PM. Banshee Tree focuses on original material with an eclectic mix of jazz, jam, funk, electronica, and swing. They played to an enthusiastic crowd at Esteban’s. They opened with a spacey minimalist jam featuring the harmonies of lead guitarist Thom LaFond and drummer Michelle Pietrafitta entitled “Synesthesia.” Nick Carter crushed it on the fiddle throughout the show with some solid picking on “Look High Over the Mountain.” They wrapped up their set with a new tune, the punchy “Spare Me.” The overzealous crowd would not let them pack up without an encore so they proceeded to play a ridiculous version of Robert Johnson’s “Come On Into My Kitchen.”
Paris_monster took the stage at 11:30 PM sharp and would play until around 1 AM. A few fans of the opener left but those who stayed were treated to a full-on auditory assault from Josh and Geoff. These two divvy up responsibilities in a unique fashion. Dion holds down the bass lines on a Dave Smith Instruments Mopho keyboard attached to his kit with his right hand and his feet and left hand play the beat on the drumheads. He is in charge of belting out the soulful vocals, but those lyrics are penned by his bandmate. Geoff mans a bass and a small modular synth rig and pedal board creating soaring melodies and textures over Josh’s rhythm. The result is unlike anything else happening in music today. The sound is garage rock meeting Motown Soul with elements of livetronica, funk, and dirty jazz. Their set was a firestorm; it was truly an experience. Dark grungy rhythms juxtaposed with Josh’s profound vocals on tracks like “Hot Canyon Air” gave way to the downtempo electro-pop sounds created during “Moles.” It would appear that paris_monster is capable of just about anything. The band treated us to songs from their entire catalog dating back to their first EP releases with the dark ethereal ode to a not so nice “Grandma.” They wrapped up the night with a visceral version of Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately.” Paris_monster blew away all expectations. I was excited to spend one more night with this unique act this time near my home of Fort Collins.
Day 2 – The Whiskey
Some bands just sound epic, paris_monster is one of those acts. The recently released Lamplight is their first full-length album and it is a cosmic journey into an unknown musical world. Paris_monster is charting new territory by smashing both genre and convention. This is a new musical crossroads that can only be accomplished through the unimaginable musical prowess from both members of this duo. Close your eyes and listen, this band easily sounds like five hardworking musicians. After slogging it out in the shadows of New York City paris_monster is finally gaining notoriety after a series of opening dates with renowned funkateers Turkuaz. It seems it’s only going to be a matter of time before the wider musical world finds out about paris_monster.
The Whiskey as its name would insinuate is a refuge for those that like top-shelf libations and spectacular food. Unbeknownst to me, The Whiskey has been hiding a grade A stage in the back. They invited local electro-jam duo Foreign Suns to play for about an hour to open up the show. The group is composed of Michael Jones on drums and bass lines and Elio Navarro on guitar with both splitting up vocal duties. Not unlike paris_monster this band relies heavily on tight musicianship and a sick beat. Foreign Suns have a Euro-pop approach mixed with an 80’s sensibility about songcraft giving them a wholly unique sound. They opened with the gritty succubus love song “Manipulator.” Foreign Suns have a riff-heavy sound with a driving snap beat that gets the audience moving. Highlights from their set included a sick “Foreign Lands” as well as their acid surf rock number “Ex Hex.” They closed with “Too Far.”
Paris_monster’s set at The Whiskey was monumental in every way. Josh Dion walked over to his kit wearing the same blue workman’s overalls he wore the previous evening signifying he was ready to get to the grind. He is a laborer and this music is his love. They played a solid hour before treating us to a four-song encore much to the delight of the crowd. They opened with “Andalusia,” a love song of sorts off of the new album. They treated fans to a few deeper cuts including a powerful “The Cause Of It All” and the swing funk tune “A Vision Complete.” They went into a trash jazz space jam on “Had Damon Caught His Sloane. They wrapped up the set with the unearthly soul tune “Darkest Days.” The encore was like a mini second set with “Not Gonna Miss This Dive” acting as a huge jam vehicle.
Paris_monster is something to behold. They are bending musical genres to their will and creating new phenomenon for fans worldwide. They are heavily followed abroad and they are gaining momentum in the states by performing with some like-minded acts. It won’t be long before paris_monster is headlining those shows. If you have the chance, go see them now.
Set 1: Synesthesia, In the Company of Crows, Hard Winds, Look High Over the Mountain, LifeForce, Moth, Spare Me
Encore: Come On Into My Kitchen
Set 1: The Unclean, Hot Canyon Air, Death Bed Song, Moles, Ape, When You’ve Got a Good Friend, Important, The Cause of it all, Not Gonna Miss This Dive, Darkest Days, New Shirts, With You, Had Damon Caught His Sloane, A Vision Complete, Grandma, Ain’t Giving Up No Love
Encore: What Have You Done For Me Lately
The Whiskey Setlists
Set 1: Manipulator, City Walker, Foreign Lands, Dancin, Ghost, Ex Hex, Gunnin, With Us, Too Far
Set 1: Andalusia, The Unclean, Hot Canyon Air, The Cause of It All, Moles, A Vision Complete, Ape, Had Damon Caught His Sloane, What Have You Done For Me Lately, Grandma, Ain’t Giving Up No Love, Darkest Days
Encore: Water to the Well, Not Gonna Miss This Dive, Inner City Blues, When You’ve Got a Good Friend