Of Montreal and their fearless leader Kevin Barnes have spent the past decade plus churning out psychedelic pop gems and taking said gems on the road with an increasingly spectacular and elaborate stage show. With each successive album and tour, the Athens, GA-based collective have further blurred the line between theatrical performance and live concert, integrating an ever-widening range of ridiculous props and characters play their parts in far-out plotlines that unfold onstage in time with the band’s ornate brand of glam rock. Last falls False Priest tour with Janelle Monae took all this to new heights, expanding their already colossal productions to include a whole host of fresh, sordid ideas including (but not limited to) mid-audience robot fights, fornication in pig masks, and a penis-shaped dragon (don’t ask.) Earlier this year, of Montreal embarked on a scaled-down tour with Painted Palms and Nite Jewel (on their West coast dates) that, while without a few of the bells and whistles that we’ve come to expect from of Montreal, lost none of the sparkle and charm that’s made them one of the most consistently entertaining live bands around.
Photo by Jason Benitez
Openers Painted Palms wasted no time in the winning the crowd with their bubbly, blissed-out tunes. By the time they were midway through their first song, there wasn’t a smile-less face or still pair of feet in the crowd. Between songs, all I could hear were joyous whispers of “MGMT?” and “Animal Collective!” It won’t be long before they find themselves headlining their own tour. (Extra points for the bassist’s groovy moves.)
The same couldn’t be said for band number two, Nite Jewel. On record, Ramona Gonzalez comes off as a sort of otherworldly siren as she sings over her own moody, danceable beats. On Saturday night at the Avalon, however, her dulcet tones clashed atonally with her touring bandmates’ poorly mixed sound and their audience’s obvious impatience. Taking the stage 20 minutes late and having to stop their set twice didn’t exactly help their case. Even an attempted Stevie Wonder singalong before set finale “What Did He Say” couldn’t help their cause much (and that’s saying a lot).
Photo by Jason Benitez
Of Montreal arrived to the funky fanfare of “L’age D’or” off of last month’s thecontrollersphere EP before charging into the joyous opening chords of “Suffer for Fashion”. From there, things only got wilder: from the loose glam-funk of “Gronlandic Edit”, the band moved into a tribal take on “For Our Elegant Caste”, whose boisterous refrain goes “we can do it softcore if you want, but you should know I take it both ways”. This wasn’t to be a normal night on the road for of Montreal, though, as frontman Barnes left the stage after a spirited “Famine Affair” of False Priest, just five songs into the band’s set. Bassist Davey Pierce stepped up to perform the eponymous track off of his band Yip Deceiver’s self-titled debut, showcasing his own range before bowing out to hand the mic back over to Barnes. This would happen several times more throughout the show, not that the crowd seemed to mind. Just as he played the last shimmering chord of the Sunlandic Twins’ psych-pop gem “Oslo in the Summertime”, Barnes and most of the band left the stage again, leaving multi-instrumentalist K Ishibashi to play violin over drummer Clayton Rychlik’s tender rendition of “My Funny Valentine”, a cover that drew some of the most raucous applause the band received all night.
There are many words in Barnes’ vocabulary — he’s perhaps only matched by Colin Meloy of the Decemberists in terms of wordy, long-winded song titles and lyrics — but his band’s stage show makes it pretty clear that his favorite is “excess.” Between the no less than three costume changes Barnes underwent (it goes without saying that each was more ridiculously awesome than the one before it), the hallucinatory on-screen backdrops, guitarist Bryan Poole’s dazzling eagle wing shoulder pads, and the fearsome lobster guy who beat the cute fox-headed couple to a pulp during “Coquet Coquette”, of Montreal’s inimitable sense of style, both musical and theatrical made for a typically memorable night at the Avalon.
Photography by Jason Benitez.
of Montreal setlist:
Suffer for Fashion
For Our Elegant Caste
Yip Deceiver (Yip Deceiver Cover/Vocals by Davey Pierce)
Like a Tourist
St. Exquisite’s Confessions
Oslo in the Summertime
My Funny Valentine (Vocals by Clayton Rychlik)
Cato as a Pun
Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse
A Sentence of Sorts In Kongsvinger
Our Riotous Defects
She’s a Rejecter