WRITTEN & PHOTOS BY: Noah Colton
Of Montreal has been a band of many different shapes and sounds over their long
career, the one constant being Kevin Barnes and his preternatural songwriting abilities. Known
just as much for their ever changing sound are the band’s legendary concerts, which take
inspiration from theater and other performance arts to create a show that is one of a kind. It
seems to be a part of rock music in general since the rise of punk and grunge to play down the
performative aspects of the live show, excess on stage being seen as overly indulgent in the
same way an overly long guitar solo might be. Barnes however makes sure to play these
elements up, rightly believing that these things can be emphasized in a way which channels the
spirit of the music.
More than that though, Of Montreal’s stage antics cultivate an atmosphere of inclusivity.
Their concerts often feel as if the audience plays just as significant a role in the show, and it is
common for people in attendance to adorn their faces with glitter and dress up in all manner of
wardrobe, whatever they feel suits them that night. Barnes in interviews has expressed the goal
of the outfits’ live shows is to be welcoming to self expression, and on the night of the show at
Union Transfer, his alter ego Georgie Fruit came out with a forceful performance that really
drove this home to everyone in the building.
On stage before his adoring fans, entered a large skull with arms controlled by at least
two stage hands, a prop that would have seemed natural at a Day of the Dead celebration
rather than a rock concert, bombastically signaled the start of the show. Barnes prolific career
has flirted with all kinds of styles, from folk back in his “Cherry Peel” days to the EDM inspiration
of the recent White is Relic/ Irrealis Mood. He tore through the set, including crowd pleasers
from just about each incarnation of the band’s storied history. His newest offerings, such as the
upbeat dance track, “Paranoiac Intervals/ Body Dysmorphia” played really well, sounded much
more full in a club setting compared to the relative flatness of the studio version. Even the
dubstep inspired “Plateau Phase/ No Careerism No Corruption” was a banger that night, the
performance of the song flanked by pseudo-Star Wars lightsaber wielding emissaries.
The show ended with a bang, a medley of tracks from the acclaimed “Hissing Fauna…”
giving way to a shower of confetti and a hug from Barnes to the fanatical front rows. His stage
presence is so powerful, the finesse with which he executes costume changes and incorporates
an ever rotating cast of set pieces shows a relentless desire to innovate and entertain his
devoted patrons. Of Montreal is likely a band that will be overlooked by history, too late to
capitalize on glam and too early to be a part of the new wave of indie bands that eschew
traditional forms of identity in their songs and ethics. They’re a band which has been just as
consistent as prolific, which I think we all tend to take for granted. Barnes for the time being
though is just as fresh as when he burst onto the scene twenty some years ago, and it seems
his next iteration will be just as engaging and meaningful as his last.