Fringe factor: Monkeygrinder cranks out the creepy at Velour
Carnies, pirates and hobos will flood the stage of Velour this Saturday in a concert too unearthly to happen more than once a year. As popular as they are macabre, Monkeygrinder is back.
This band with a penchant for the peculiar began almost eight years ago with a dream — literally.
“I had these frightening images of circus scenes flashing through my head,” said creator Colin Botts of the nightmares that inspired his creation. “It was strong enough that it was waking me up, they were such strong images that I started jotting them down in a notebook I kept by my bed. The next morning I looked at my scribblings and made a song out of them … using my notes almost word-for-word.”
The song was “Elephant’s Last Waltz,” a story from a circus elephant’s perspective. After years of being forced to perform in an awful circus, the elephant tramples the ringleader in an attempt to escape.
“That song was the first domino, that started the band and the costumes and the performance style,” Botts said.
The band, which can best be described as fitting into a circus-punk genre, is “a collection of artists with a taste for the bizarre celebrating the music of carnies, hobos, pirates and other characters on the fringe,” according to Botts.
This unique approach to music attracts a wide variety of fans. “I’m surprised sometimes to see the positive feedback we get from different walks of life,” Botts said. “Skater punks to opera singers and everybody in between.”
The music is so widely popular because while the songwriting is sophisticated enough to appeal to a musically mature audience, the subject matter and gritty delivery draw in fans from most counter-culture demographics.
Monkeygrinder adds an idiosyncratic voice to Utah’s typical deluge of Halloween entertainment.
“We’re pretty unique among what’s available around here,” Botts said. “I think there’s a bit of a feeling of self-oppression perhaps amongst a lot of people in Utah Valley and maybe the Monkeygrinder experience frees them to embrace their imagination and their wilder side. Especially around Halloween time people tend to do that anyway. And we’re not by any means a Halloween band, but it fits the idea of going out into the world with a new character.”
This week’s performance will bring some surprises to long-time fans.
“There will be some new members introduced that night, and that’s about all I want to say,” Botts said. “Definitely come in costumes, and circus costumes are preferred.”
Monkeygrinder’s membership is fluid, ranging from four to 11 performers at any given performance. Botts has never had to organize a call for band members, as each performer gravitated toward Monkeygrinder without solicitation.
Returning band members include Cam the Candy Butcher and Accordion Andy, but a couple beloved musicians won’t be able to perform. “Rooster won’t be with us,” Botts said. “He flew the coop.”
Also, the band member dubbed “Bones” won’t be able to perform — he’s currently held up in a prison in Singapore. “People will definitely be disappointed about that, but they should know where he is,” Botts said.
Monkeygrinder hasn’t performed in Utah in two years, and Botts intimated that they won’t be back for a while. “For anyone that wants to see us,” he said, “they ought to make this one a priority.”
Though the real Monkeygrinder experience can only be found at the band’s live shows, there is music available online at www.thesixtyone.com/monkeygrinder and monkeygrinderlive.com.
Tickets for Monkeygrinder’s Halloween shows tend to sell out, so get there as early as you can. There will be circus-themed entertainment on the sidewalk outside the door before the show.
When: Saturday at 8 p.m.
Where: Velour Live Music Gallery, 135 N. University Ave. inProvo
Tickets: Available at the door
Info: www.velourlive.com or www.monkeygrinderlive.com