Who: Yonatan Gat
Where: Silver Dollar, Toronto
When: 19 November 2015
In one word: Whoa
What can I say about Yonatan Gat that hasn’t already been said about the universe, space and time?
They are fast, really fast. Fastfastfast. And extremely colourful and full of energy.
Walking into The Silver Dollar Room at Spadina and College I was not sure what to expect in a live performance from the trio, although I had taken some notes while listening to their album Director earlier on that day.
My notes included observations such as “a drumbeat like a train speeding down a valley crossroads,” and “Who doesn’t like a little slide guitar? It goes nice with a bit of whisky and a calm ‘I can ride this horse through town’ kind of demeanor.”
While waiting for Yonatan Gat’s trio to perform I spoke to Corey Wells of Surinam, one of the opening acts.
“I played with Yonatan in Monotonix in Iowa about six or seven years ago and they fuckin’ ruled,” said Corey.
“I was watching Yonatan the whole show and none of the stuff he was doing really made sense,” spoke a bearded Corey, going on to describe an obscure gear configuration.
Corey also explained that Yonatan used to use a strange string configuration with a bass string replacing the low E string on the guitar and different tunings to compensate for not having a bass player.
The topic of Wrongbar came up, which Corey described as a “shit show” as multiple police cruisers shut down the street as the venue got, well, out of hand.
Corey said he knew Monotonix and Yonatan through Dan Burke, a local concert promoter. I asked if Surinam and Yonatan Gat had any musical similarities and he enthusiastically drew the connection arising from a love of the punk rock genre.
To say the least my conversation with Corey had me very intrigued. I sat comfortably at the bar and tried to start conversation with this fantastical girl working the bar with a thorny rose kind of beauty.
“If you want drink tickets you can speak with Dan,” she mentioned.
I awkwardly walked over to an approaching figure who I was told was Dan, mentioned I was covering the show and simultaneously asked about drink tickets.
Well, Dan was not impressed and he basically accused me of being a typical journo-mooch looking for freebies.
You think you can fucking come watch a show for free and drink for free too?
He said something along those lines. I made an effort to avoid him for the rest of the night.
Moments later, after stepping outside for a casual cigarette, I was approached while absent-mindedly looking at my phone by an unfamiliar face.
“Can I sit down?” asked this dude that I had never met but felt calmly engaged by.
The stranger turned out to be Gal, Yonatan’s drummer.
I had been told before going to the venue that I would probably not have the opportunity to interview Yonatan and when I found out who this stranger was I was excited to get a glimpse of the inner workings of the group and their ideas about music.
Even though it wasn’t Yonatan himself I was quite certain the group had a level of chemistry that allowed them to not only play well together but also think in a similar way as a team. This was confirmed later when I witnessed the energy of their performance.
Gal showed me a Murakami book he had been reading along with notes he had written about it. Murakami is a contemporary Japanese writer and his book, which I discovered was about pursuing love with an introspective woman, was full of colourful language (for lack of a better euphemism).
I didn’t want to think too hard about the connection between this style of writing and what the band could represent, although I was sure there could be some connection. I decided to ask more about Gal’s motivations in music and life.
Gal told me about a lot of things that seemed close to heart. Mainly concerns about authenticity and the search for the inner self.
“There’s no you,” he said.
I like the idea of the dissolution of the ego myself and wanted to push a bit harder to see what would pursue somebody to try to escape the realm of mindful distractions, but I realized that I was just as much an example of somebody who was trying to escape this without much logical reason for doing so.
I felt a connection, at least in spirit, to this band. Perhaps we shared a similarity in our love of music as a way to “escape.”
Although I was sure Gal’s ideas had some influence on the band I also noticed his humble nature as he reassured me that this was not about him. I was happy to have made this type of conversation and gained some insight into what Yonatan Gat’s trio might talk about in their time away from the stage but I reserved some of my judgment so I could let the music speak.
Regardless of the connection between who Gal is and who Yonatan is, if there is one, I was particularly happy to get one good line of excellence out of him.
“It’s about this thing I hear in my head and I hope it will sound good outside of my head.”
This basically summarized what I thought to be Gal’s motivations in music and, without even realizing, he had also summarized my own love of music as well.
Before our conversation ended Gal told me to not worry about the promoter and that he was genuinely a good dude, a musician in his own right.
Given the trust I had quickly built in Gal as an authentic musician and, perhaps eagerly, as a good person I took his advice and put the frustrations I had encountered with Dan out of mind.
The opening acts started playing and I noticed that the overall feel of the music at that time had a lot to do with catharsis and escaping the norm of human expression, but this could have been my own subjective experience. I hesitate to doubt that the rest of the audience could feel what I felt, however.
I will spare you the details of the opening acts as this description of my experience is getting a bit lengthy, but I assure you they were great.
Rather than taking the stage, risen above the crowd, Yonatan’s trio set up their equipment in the center of the crowd; surrounded by anticipation.
I was amused by the grandpa’s house vibe coming from the soft yellow lights that had been placed around Gal’s drum kit. Is it cool to say Grandpa’s house? I want to be sure because I did notice I high degree of coolness radiating outwards from the trio as they set up.
But we don’t talk about “cool,” man. That’s not cool.
Okay, I get it. Moving on.
Yonatan made an administrative decision to ask the bar to dim the house lights. This definitely made the feel of the approaching musical horizon much more serene.
The first notes played reverberated through The Silver Dollar room and I was immersed in what felt like a wall of sound.
I don’t want to label the sound too much because I understand the principle of unlimited expression, but I will consult the notes I had made hours prior to the event to give you a picture.
“Atmosphere is kind of like that scene in a coming of age movie where the star reaches adulthood and realizes that “coolness” is subjective.”
Or maybe this one works better.
“Surf-y chromatic chords as if a sepia photo of a picnic had come to life and started glistening in California sun.”
The crowd was definitely alive. But with the tempo of the music it is difficult to “dance” traditionally.
The people I saw moving were doing so sporadically and quickly, as if the music was sending small shocks through their body.
Personally I was overtaken by the raw audio and almost immobilized. I wanted to hear more than move. And what I heard definitely made me feel at home.
It also is easy to say that Yonatan’s trio had great stage presence. You could tell just by looking and listening that the passion the group had for their art was real.
I didn’t forget about that bass. The most impressive memory I have of the bass master, for which I do not know a name, is his shuffling, shaking dances as he plugged away at a driving bassline. MC Hammer would have been either proud or amazingly confused, in a good way.
About 25 minutes into the show I realized if I did not leave I would not have a ride home and would be stranded in Toronto. This was quite upsetting but I manned up and stepped away from the crowd just as the musical vibe shifted to something a little more tranquil than the, from what I understand, signature rapid tapping drum beat and multi-progressive bass and lead driving.
Stepping out onto Spadina I was filled with cold air and began to focus on my breathing to help dissipate the enjoyable tension that had been created by the trio’s audio wall. The remaining notes echoing out of The Silver Dollar, yet muffled by the door that had closed behind me, slowly faded away into the sounds of streetcars and car engines.
The trip home was peaceful and I heard palm-muting inside my head quietly like a whisper of a night that ended all too soon.
To finish, I will try to summarize what I think about Yonatan’s trio, if I would have the pleasure of writing some form of label.
I don’t like math but if Yonatan Gat was an equation I’m pretty sure it would require some complex trigonometry to solve. As if you’d want to solve it. It’s perfectly fine as a source of wonder. Why fix something that isn’t broken? If it sounds a little dissonant maybe just chill out and enjoy hearing two things that don’t necessarily go together in perfect harmony and see how that feels. Life doesn’t always represent itself in perfect harmony and things are always clashing with each other so why should music be imprisoned to some idea of perfect symmetry when there are so many notes on a fret board or keyboard that can be played comfortably to create a certain feeling, regardless of whether or not that feeling conforms to the wonderful world of harmonious major and minor wizardry.
Tonal freedom, dude. Whoa.
© Shaun Fitl, Music Vice
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