There’s a delayed cheer from the crowd once Kelly Finnigan, the lead singer/songwriter and bandleader for Monophonics confidently strides out onto the stage with a wave. Overhearing chatter throughout the audience that evening, it became increasingly clear that this band had the sort of appeal that drew a dedicated fanbase. People weren’t just there to catch a show, they were there for Monophonics – they had a following. After seeing the rest of the band take the stage and dive into their first number, the energy and verve of their performance made their draw apparent. The band numbered anywhere between 6 and 9 depending on the song, consisting of Kelly on keys on lead vocals, guitar drums and bass, and a small but savory horn section of trumpet and trombone who added a warm, mellow layer of brassy goodness over everything.
The band delivered on a lite-psych neo-soul sound that was a love letter both sonically and spiritually to the R&B and soul-centric crooners of yesteryear… Many comparisons have been made about the music to that of Marvin Gaye which becomes immediately apparent upon listening. At one point during the show, Kelly even name dropped Curtis Mayfield before the band launched into a piece that, if it wasn’t “Move on Up”, sounded at least like its little brother. The band had soul and passion in spades, especially Kelly who had broken a sweat before the first song was over and was up there like some kind of soul preacher, at times almost desperately pleading with the music. His spirited and passionate performance had a profound effect on the audience who were eating it up, and was like the source of energy which flowed outward to the rest of the band. They were on tour promoting their new album Sage Motel so the setlist was heavy with that material, one standout performance being their leading single “Warpaint”.
A few songs into the set they brought up Alanna Royale, a Nashvillian soul singer who apparently had toured with the band in the past and with whom Kelly formed an excellent duet. There was a comfortable chemistry between her and the rest of the band whose style seemed to fit her vocal style like a glove – it was a shame when she left the stage as her vocal range made a great addition to their sound. However she was welcomed back at the end of the set for one last big number, as well as fellow tourmate Kendra Morris and another Nashville native on guitar (whose name I don’t recall). It was an joyous ending to an exuberant performance, and one that both my girlfriend and I left having enjoyed very much. Monophonics may not be trying to reinvent the wheel, but they have clearly found both their voice and the love of their fans by paying respects to the pioneering sounds of the old seasoned heavily with the exciting flavors of the new.
Be sure to check out Monophonic’s new album Sage Motel out now on Colemine Records.