Not many bands are lucky enough to receive the amount of attention that Mona have before they’ve even released their first album. Pitched as romantic rockers and looking like members of the Greasers, this four-piece band from Nashville, by way of Ohio, have been garnering attention since the self-release of their debut track, ‘Listen To Your Love’. Recorded in their basement in September of last year, it was released at just the right time to straddle the best new bands of 2010 (NME) and ones to watch in 2011 (BBC Sounds of 2011). Combine this with a slot on Later…with Jools Holland, backing from Zane Lowe on Radio One and countless write-ups, and the ball is well and truly rolling.
The only trouble with being at the centre of the hype machine is you have a lot to live up to and run the risk of petering out before you’ve even begun. Even more so if the press latch onto “cocky frontman’s” wild claims of becoming bigger than the ego himself, Bono. Understandably expectations are high when they swagger onto Whelan’s stage, singer Nick Brown toasting a pint of Guinness to the crowd, who are giddy and kind with their applause after being warmed up by Dublin’s own, The Minutes.
Mona’s first track ‘Trouble Ahead’, is fast and highly charged. It’s not just a song, it’s a heady introduction inviting you in with a little warning: ‘Ooh we got it all. There’s trouble on the way”. Brown, actually as cocky as he was alleged to be, is rather just confident but remarks, “I heard you guys get rowdy? That wasn’t rowdy”.
They rock harder during the second song, ‘Teenager’, breaking strings with furious strumming and coaching the audience to sing the chorus. There’s the sense you’re watching a charismatic band that could be very good and are about to be projected into the stratosphere but they seem slightly miffed at the crowd for not getting more into their short set. The audience, in response, projects an almost apologetic sense of wanting to support them but apart from the popular and instant hit ‘Listen To Your Love’, are just not familiar enough with their songs.
Perhaps their radio friendly music is a little at odds with their image, ’50s get up, tattoos, on-stage whiskey, tight guitar riffs and drums. Acting harder than your music is all in the name of good fun but the gig was lacking a certain magic that the band were willing to happen.