By Tim McCoy
It has now been a little over two weeks since the Dreamweavin’ concluded and FloydFest officially came to a close. There was so much good music to cover that it took us (at Blue Ridge Rocks) every bit of those two weeks to write up all the highlights. Today, we wrap up that coverage with a feature on one of the best new bands to play FloydFest, the Monophonics.
Described by FloydFest founder Kris Hodges, in an earlier Blue Ridge Rocks interview, as one band not to be missed, I eagerly awaited the start of the Saturday show on the main stage. A mid afternoon rain shower had just blown through and festival-goers were stepping out dry from shelter and making their way to the stage to hear what this West Coast soul and funk band, better known west of the Mississippi and in Europe than here in Southwest Virginia, had to offer. I’d already done my homework, and knew that we were all in for a good show. But what Kelly Finnigan and the band brought to the stage was more than a good show, it was a powerhouse performance of soulful vocals, horns, and guitar that washed over the crowd in wave after wave, creating a musical storm that shook the ground.
The show’s intensity was bigger than I’d expected for an afternoon performance, and the crowd grew steadily throughout the 75-minute set. By the midpoint of the show, Finnigan was drenched in sweat as he sung and played his Hammond organ, as horns blew mightily and the crowd danced fiercely. Then the Monophonics broke into its 2012 hit “Bang Bang”, a cover of the 1966 Sonny Bono classic. As Finnigan raised his cocked finger and sang the title lyrics to the audience, they raised their finger guns and sang right back. The set wrapped with a cover of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On”, which did just that. The crowd was hanging on, and singing along with every line, and no doubt adjusting schedules to see the second show later that night on the Speakeasy Stage.
After the band cooled off a bit, I got the chance to sit down with several of the members to hear about their FloydFest experience and what brought them to our neck of the woods.
“We’ve done some big fests, but mostly on the West Coast and in Europe, but we haven’t done a lot of big fests on the East Coast. That made FloydFest extra attractive.” Finnigan said. “Especially since we have friends in other bands who have played FloydFest, and always had good things to say about it.”
The Monophonics formed in 2005, but Finnigan joined later when he was looking for a horn section for a project he was working on after moving up the coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco. “I googled ‘best Bay Area horns’ and the Monophonic Orchestra came back as the first hit.”
What started as a work-for-hire relationship, grew “very naturally” into this unique band that draws on influences like Sly & the Family Stone, Vanilla Fudge, and weave sounds old and new into their signature “psychedelic soul”.
That signature sound has taken them through several major festivals in Europe touring with the French soul singer Ben l’Oncle Soul. In late 2013-14, they spent a four months performing in Paris and around Europe. “We played amazing venues, [for example] a Roman amphitheater in France built in 3 AD.” Said Finnegan. “Travelling, having a worldly view is a real privilege.”
That worldly view now includes the mountains of Virginia. The Monophonics made a singularly unique mark on the FloydFest crowds with two high-energy sets and a special appearance with Leftover Salmon during the Saturday night Buffalo Super Jam that the Monophonics kicked off.
Hear more of the great sounds this group produces on the Monophonics’ website. If you’re not sure where to start, jump in with “Promises” off the 2015 album “Sound of Sinning”. You won’t be disappointed.
Monophonics is Austin Bohlman (Drums), Myles O’Mahony (Bass/Background Vocals), Ian McDonald (Guitar/Background Vocals), Ryan Scott (Trumpet/Back- ground Vocals/Percussion) & Kelly Finnigan (Keys/Lead Vocals) along with a rotating 2nd horn usually filled by Nadav Nirenberg (Trombone) from Ikebe Shakedown and Breakdown Brass.