Uncle Monk The Garrison, Toronto ON July 3

Uncle Monk The Garrison, Toronto ON July 3
There's an old yarn about Kiss' debut show: only four people were in the audience that night. Yet as the band's reputation grew, so did the number of people who claimed to have "been there, man."

Such will inevitably be the case with this stunning performance by bluegrass/folk duo Uncle Monk. For while attendance numbers may have been negligible, as word grows over ensuing years, it will be amusing to run into others who "caught" this hour-plus set of captivating musicianship.

With one swoop of his pick, mandolin player/vocalist Tommy "Ramone" Erdelyi decimated any reservations about the ability, direction or sincerity of his musical partnership with singer/guitarist Claudia Tienan. Both have incredibly engaging voices compelled by pure adoration for their craft and bolstered by impeccable ability on their respective instruments.

Moreover, the pair were so humbly yet obviously enthralled in their music, one could not help but become swept away in the evening's soft, welcoming atmosphere. Were it not for Erdelyi's occasional requests for back-up vocals from the audience, one would have thought they had forgotten a crowd lay at their feet, with Uncle Monk so entranced in the moment.

To put it bluntly, despite featuring nothing more than a duo performing uncomplicated guitar chords and tinkering mandolin, Uncle Monk were captivating for the set's duration. That's a feat most bands replete with drums, guitars and vocals fail to achieve. It's also that sort of Zen creativity that kept the crowd rooted for a variety of tunes from the group's eponymous debut, as well as renditions of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and Sonny Curtis's "I Fought the Law."

Still, not to negate Tienan's role in Uncle Monk, but Erdelyi did more than simply justify a musical direction quite contrary to his past as punk rock progenitor. He also obliterated the need to capitalize on his past as a former Ramones member. Solid, capable and just plain awesome in their own right, Uncle Monk stand alone as deserving of their own recognition. Erdelyi is now keeper of a new character not unlike how Vincent Furnier maintains the role of Alice Cooper: he personifies his new band's moniker with comforting ease.