September 10, 2017 at The Sinclair
of Montreal is a band that has been around for 20 years, has released 14 studio albums, and has its roots in the Elephant 6 Collective that spawned bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. In short, they are legends in the indie rock and experimental pop scenes. The band played a sold-out show in Boston on September 10th at the Sinclair with guests Showtime Goma and Nancy Feast. Going into this show, I had no idea what to expect. of Montreal is known for extravagant stage antics and performing in heavy makeup and drag. On my way into the show, however, I walked by frontman and founder of the band, Kevin Barnes, on the street in a formal grey suit. What I learned shortly is that his on-stage persona is polar opposites with his street act.
The first act to come on the stage was an unnamed stand-up comedian. He must’ve been there just to put the audience in a lighthearted but edgy mood. His punchlines consisted almost entirely of puns and his content was mostly shock humor. He was only on stage for a brief five minutes however, gracefully bowing out before his comedy got old.
The opener for the night was the team up of Showtime Goma, aka Jen Goma of A Sunny Day in Glasgow, who recently put out her first solo LP, and Nancy Feast of the Brooklyn indie band TEEN. These two Brooklyn-based artists worked together to create an avant-garde (and honestly a bit strange) techno show that included spoken word, mesmerizing choreography, and inventive lighting. They started off their set with a scripted dialogue that played on the archetype of the housewife, mocking its dreariness and servile mindset. The dialogue was entirely opposite of the rest of their performance. Their music was loud and abrasive, hard hitting techno beats with skillfully arpeggiated vocal riffs. They danced along as they sang and changed their LED lights with handheld remotes, shifting focus and colors throughout the entire set. Their performance was highly dynamic and energetic even though the only instruments they had were their voices. Before their final song, they gave one last talk, saying that they “just prefer to be weirdos instead of a polished darkness.” This mindset of being authentically strange resonated with everyone in the audience, and was the perfect way to describe both Showtime Goma’s set and of Montreal’s.
With the stage set for of Montreal and the crowd more than ready, the band walked out and started playing their Kraftwerk-esque intro. Their only lighting was a giant projector at the back of the venue that projected psychedelic patterns and clips onto the stage. It could even be controlled by a lighting tech to create spotlights and project patterns onto performers wearing white bodysuits. Within moments, frontman Kevin Barnes burst onto the stage in full drag as his character from the “it’s different for girls” music video. Barnes performed in drag the entire show with two full costume changes.
Their first song was the hit single “let’s relate” off their most recent album, Innocence Reaches. The crowd burst to life, and from there on the energy didn’t die. During the songs, performers often came onto the stage in costumes like a dominatrix, policemen wearing pig masks, and demonic bird creatures. This turned the concert into almost a theater experience with each song telling a story. For “Cato As A Pun,” a song about Barnes dealing with depression, he had a literal musical battle with his “demons” while absolutely shredding his guitar solo. There was never a dull moment on stage when every song had a performance along with it. My favorites were girls in brightly colored Darth Vader masks for “it’s different for girls” and a Chinese dragon that breathed feathers.
Their set consisted mostly of songs off one of their most well-known albums, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Considering the band has such an expansive library, I was pleasantly surprised to know almost all of the songs they played. The entire experience was magical and exhilarating. The show was very much a glam rock performance, from the performers and costumes to Barnes’ drag outfits. Considering how long they have been performing as a band I hope that they continue to rock on for long enough to see them again.
Listen to of Montreal’s newest EP, Rune Husk, here: