Of Montreal's live performance makes your nerves tingle like a St. Vitus dance

Of Montreal (stylized with a lower-case "of") is often confused as being a Canadian band because of their name. Contrary to that assumption, of Montreal has almost no connection to Montreal besides one of leading man Kevin Barnes' former squeezes being from that province. As a quick Google search would point out, they are from Athens, Georgia. They are a part of the Elephant 6 collective which includes notable band Neutral Milk Hotel.

Of Montreal is an enigma in the contemporary music atmosphere, being known for their sexy and groove-tastic music. After early experiments in "Cherry Peel" (1997) and Beatles inspired music in "The Gay Parade" (1999) they took a turn down with a few sleeper hits until the seminal "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer" (2007). "Hissing Fauna" is a melancholic and personal tale of scenester Kevin Barnes discovering anti-depressants and an alter-ego thus unlocking his creativity. 

"Hissing Fauna" also paved the way for the masterpiece "Skeletal Lamping" in 2008. "Skeletal Lamping" took all of the conceptual as well as instrumental seedlings planted in "Hissing Fauna" and nurtured them into the sonic forest that was to be contained in that CD which clothed itself with nude dancers for cover art. This is around the time of Montreal became popular with Indie kids who wanted music they could really groove to.

Of Montreal enjoyed the wave of growing success over the course of their next few releases. Their latest "Aureate Gloom" (2015) saw a return to 60s-inspired roots with more guitar driven psychedelia. 

So let's just say I was hyped for the show Friday night at Crescent Ballroom.

20151107ofmontreal_1
By Jacob Stanek | The State Press

Diane Coffee performs songs while opening for Of Montreal on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix.

The Crescent Ballroom on Friday night was filled with eager concert goers for the sold-out show of the night. Some die-hard fans had seen of Montreal multiple times and were still stoked on the chance to see them again. Some people had applied sparkly face-paint and eccentric costumes in the spirit of frontman Kevin Barnes' unique style. 

Openers Diane Coffee, fronted by the drummer of band Foxygen, took the stage first. They are what is to be expected from an of Montreal opening band, sharing many of the same characteristics and trademarks of Kevin Barnes stage performance including glitter eye paint. Their music was alright, nothing to go home and download a discography over. They did succeed in seducing the crowd and warming them up for the head-liners next.

After an intermission during which the Crescent played tunes, the lights dimmed and the music dropped. People cheered and jumped up and down as members of the of Montreal live band trumped on stage. Inexplicably, the musicians were accompanied by skeleton costume wearing stage hands. 

An exposed muscle / vascular system bodysuit wearing man took the center microphone. He started an announcement about the virtues of something called "witch tits." During his speech, visuals were being projected behind him onto the wall. The visuals were of extremely hi-resolution and the projector they were using must have been immense: it shot images of multi-colored flashing birds, techno leaves on branches with a background of complacent clouds. The speech grew more intense as the announcer asked the audience to banish the demons around them and within them.

Kevin Barnes ran up stage to crashing applause. In his frilly red tunic and matching stockings and signature eye-paint he gave a fun-house vibe to the stage presence which was already filled dancing skeletons. With his classic red Gibson SG he struck the first chords of the opening song as everyone in the audience suddenly burst like a bubble. 

The rest of the show can only be explained through the brief glimpses of clarity that arose during the psychedelic jamboree. The set list was dynamic and varied. The band performed songs from both"Hissing Fauna" and "Skeletal Lamping" as well as newer tracks. The energy of the songs increased and waned allowing moments of hype and room to dance if desired. 

During one part of the performance two people in large busted dog costumes came on stage and wrestled before doing an erotic striptease for the audience.

Overall the show was more than to be expected. The combination of the visuals, the band and stage props turned the event into a carnival experience.


Reach the reporter at lsaether@asu.edu or follow @looooogaaan on Twitter.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.