Learning to Love of Montreal

December 12th, 2012

Of Montreal – Webster Hall – December 11, 2012

Despite my friends’ urging, I could never fully get into of Montreal. I’m no stranger to music with a heavy dose of drug culture—a quick check of my dresser in high school would have revealed the most glorious tie-dye shirts from the Grateful Dead, Phish and a plethora of lesser known jam bands. Despite of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes’s knack for catchy pop lines (to which I am completely endeared) and even my own brief obsession with “The Party’s Crashing Us,” the group resided just a bit left of center for me. However, I couldn’t continue to ignore the incredible reputation their live show has built. So last night, I decided to take the plunge at Webster Hall.

And what a terribly deep descent into weirdness it was. From the very beginning of the night, of Montreal confirmed my deepest fears. In the first minute, four people in fat suits and skeleton masks ran onstage and danced around. As it turned out, these dancers became the focal point of the stage show. Each of their costumes was more elaborate and bizarre than the previous, and each song on which they appeared was more intricately choreographed than the one before. At one point, they fed the crowd a solid stream of balloon tubes, as if to dare everyone in the audience to make their own balloon animals. Later, we were treated to a saga involving the murder of a rat by an owl, with subsequent desecration of the carcass by an ant. All the while, trippy and colorful animations were projected all over the stage. Phish’s light show couldn’t hold a candle to this stuff.

But this immense spectacle never took away from of Montreal’s music. While the band couldn’t possibly replicate the energy of their multitracked studio recordings, they kept the set tight and spunky. Barnes sounded absolutely stunning vocally, and he also didn’t allow himself to be outdone by his own show. He crowd surfed, made a few costume changes of his own and even joined in on the fun by sitting on the shoulders of the dancers, appearing like Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride. I’ve never seen anything like it. And just like that, I began to love of Montreal. —Alex Kapelman