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Of Big Hits and Timing

SHOW #22: Of Monsters and Men with Yellow Ostrich at The Ogden 5/28/12

It’s strange how things can work out for a band. A few months back when Mumbles first introduced me to Of Monsters and Men they were a little known band from Iceland whose album hadn’t even been released in the US. However, thanks to the glory of the internet their music escaped the island on which they lived and made its way to people everywhere. Due to that in that just a few months time they’ve gone from a band that rarely left Iceland to one that’s playing sold out shows in such far flung and exotic places ad Denver.

Now, I believe that a large part of their success is due to the fact that Little Talks is an absolutely amazing song and sometimes that’s really all you need. Though it seems to me that timing and luck are probably involved as well. Sometimes all of the pieces just have to fall into place at the right time and then suddenly stardom occurs. None of this is to say that they don’t deserve the success they’ve had. They certainly do. It’s really just interesting to me to have seen it happen first hand.

You can probably tell from all that that I enjoyed them live, but what about the show as a whole? Was the opener any good? Were there ridiculously tall people there? Did a shirtless guy ask an employee of the venue to write something on his chest in Icelandic? I…why…why would you even ask that last one internet? What’s wrong with you?

Yellow Ostrich

I suppose it was inevitable that I would come across an opening act that didn’t blow me away and make me love them. It seems like it’s difficult for mt to not love people who are performing music because I have great respect for people that commit themselves to music but not every act is going to work for me and Yellow Ostrich is a perfect example of this.

Nothing that this band did worked for me. Technically they seemed fairly sound, they used a lot of looping to create layered sounds, the drummer was really talented, and one band member played the bass and three different horns. However the drums were so loud they washed out the other instruments, it’s quite possible that they gut on the horns was just a really good mime for all I could hear of them. The vocals  also left a lot to be desired. They were muddy and rough in a way that I usually enjoy but that, for whatever reason, didn’t resonate with this band.

I think that, on some nights, these issues could be overlooked or even overcome but the biggest issue I felt with this band was that there was just no connection. I felt nothing while listening to them. When they bounded around the stage joyously I felt no joy, when they brought things down I felt no sorrow. I was just disconnected from them and they seemed disconnected from the audience. There were clearly some people there who loved them, and again it’s hard for me to say they are bad because they are still making music. All I can really say is that they certainly aren’t for me.

Of Monsters and Men

Before I talk about the show I do briefly have to mention that yes internet there was a shirtless man who had an Ogden employee write something in Icelandic on his chest. He had clearly been having a good time for a while when he made this decision and in the end he made his way to the front and managed to get his chest seen, read, and commented on by the band. So I guess it paid off? What message did he pass along using mankind’s oldest message delivery system? (Chestograms predate smoke signals by at least 300 years) He informed the band that his wife was Icelandic, which was punctuated by his wife and the band having a brief conversation in Icelandic. Not bad for a drunk guy with a marker.

So, about the show. All I can really say is wow, these guys exceeded every expectation I had going in. The music was powerful and personal, their energy swept the room and coursed through the audience leading to dancing and singing the crowd over. If you’ve heard their album, My Head is an Animal you might be surprised at the amount of energy they present live. A large portion of their album is somewhat somber and slow with Little Talks being the lone upbeat exception. Live however all of their songs, whether slow or fast are infused with this raw energy that just seeps through the music and the lyrics and takes everything up about three or four notches.

Their songs are filled with big sweeping choruses that are easy to learn which makes singing along easy. Their performance is just so genuine, heartfelt and engaging that it makes singing along almost an imperative. They are just good at what they do and they clearly love doing it so watching them at work was a joy.

Having seven people in a band, with three of them on guitar and (sometimes) two on keyboards might seem like a bit much and it certainly has the potential to come across as busy and confused but they work so well as a group that things never get out of hand. Everything just meshes so well together. Also, I have to give a nod to their drummer. From their album you wouldn’t get the impression that he’s as good as he is, but man is he ever good. He has a ton of energy and really drives the band. In fact he might be partially responsible for the liveliness of their performance compared to their studio work.

You should make a point of seeing them on this tour if you can. Popularity can be a fickle thing but given the talent they displayed I’d guess that this is the last chance many people will have to see them at a moderately sized venue.

Two songs in parting:

First Six Weeks:

Then Little Talks, which you’ve probably heard but should just go ahead and hear again:

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