Yonatan Gat brought his intense three-piece touring outfit to The Union last night for an intimate performance. (WOUB/Joe Votaw)

Once In A Lifetime at The Union with Yonatan Gat

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Yonatan Gat would be an arena-filling guitarist if the world was just. For local showgoers, though, it’s a good thing that life is unfair. On Wednesday night Gat made good on his promise to give The Union “something that has never happened before and will never be done again,” his band delivering a set as thrilling as it was intimate.

Though they played for a festival crowd this summer at the Nelsonville, Gat, drummer Gal Lazer and bassist Sergio Sayeg used the tighter environment to perform eye-level with the attendees. Three layers of audience encircled the New York-based trio, who set up in the middle of the checkered dance floor. In an earlier interview, Gat outlined the importance of being “physically there” with fans, a philosophy that might have developed during his time tearing through the punk clubs of Israel, Europe and North America with his former project Monotonix.

(WOUB/Joe Votaw)
(WOUB/Joe Votaw)

Gat’s current solo act, however, eludes scene and genre. Lazer’s abuse of his drumset drove the music with the relentless frenzy of hardcore punk, while Gat interrupted with gorgeous and intricate serenades on his six-string. Woodstock and CBGB’s alike would embrace this group enthusiastically. The varied faces of Wednesday night can attest, as people of all ages and places looked the picture of rapture for 90 minutes.

One middle-aged man excitedly shouted before the show, “Have you seen these guys play?” A 20-something jumped repeatedly when Gat plucked the night’s opening chords. The whole of the crowd, roughly 70-plus, felt one young woman’s excitement when Lazer dropped his right stick and reached behind to hold her hand, all while his left continued to drum at feats of power and speed. One got the impression that even the bartenders would trade the night’s tips to stand in the first layer.

Gyrating through the concert’s many collapses and climaxes, Gat’s claim of improvisation feels increasingly fantastical. Nothing came apart, nothing loosened, even, yet the set never lost its spontaneity. As the band revisits previously explored melodies and changes tone seemingly at Gat’s whim, some musicians may experience the perplexing urge to quit music. The remedy for this is to consider that the audience is an integral part of Gat’s performance, with the guitarist going so far as to elevate his crowds to a fourth musician role.

“It’s going to be mostly us making the music, but that’s an illusion in a way,” Gat said to WOUB’s Emily Votaw. “The show can be very quiet and soft or insanely noisy and abrasive, and that’s determined by what is in the room.”

What was in the room Wednesday night was something visceral, ecstatic and ephemeral, born and died over 90 minutes at The Union Bar & Grill.

(WOUB/Joe Votaw)
(WOUB/Joe Votaw)