I came to Of Montreal’s show at The Jefferson in Charlottesville, VA as a near-stranger, having heard their music for the first time only the night before. My brother had come to visit so we could attend the concert together, and as an introduction to the band, he had me listen to a strange and wonderful album called Paralytic Stalks. It sounded like a rock album and an acid trip squished together, and left me impressed and excited for the band’s show.
What I witnessed at the concert shook me to my core. I was prepared for weirdness, but the strangeness I saw and heard on stage was too much, even for me. With a projector, a screen behind the band, dancers, and the band’s music, the concert was truly a multimedia experience. It left me exhausted, confused, and above all, entertained. As a preemptive disclaimer, I wasn’t using any hallucinogenics when I went to the show. With that potential accusation averted, please join me as I recount my descent into madness.
The concert began with a monologue from a man named “Lanc,” who was wearing a bodysuit that made it look as though he had no skin, only muscles and bones. As Of Montreal played music beneath his speech, Lanc informed the audience that his existence was entirely dependent upon Of Montreal’s fans. Consequently, the audience was, in effect, an assemblage of gods.
As Lanc’s monologue came to a close, the band began playing the song “Suffer for Fashion” while the projector blasted the stage with scrolling images of protesters and advertisements. People walked out into the stage, holding large white pieces of posterboard, and formed a faux-screen behind guitarist and singer Kevin Barnes.
Past this point, I may get some of the song titles wrong, as I was (like I mentioned) a new fan of Of Montreal. After “Suffer for Fashion,” the band began playing “Triumph of Disintegration,” while the projector displayed a mirrored video of a dancing Indian woman. It was bizarre, as it drew the audience’s focus from the band, with everyone focusing instead on the screen and the curtains at the back of the stage, where the video was most easily visible. THe stage’s lighting reinforced this, as the band was poorly illuminated. It felt as though I were watching a music video.
But then, the weirdness truly began. As Of Montreal played “Spike the Senses,” the projector showed a mirrored video of a silhouetted pole dancer. Meanwhile, on the stage, two grown men wearing footed pajamas and masks that depicted a crying baby, miming misery and tantrums, surrounded by the band.
Bizarre, right? But my favorite moment of the night came as the band played a song called “Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider.” The projector adorned the screen with a multicolored eagle, while two people in American flag shirts and pants, with white boxing gloves and poodle masks, began boxing on stage. Suddenly, who should arrive, but Abraham Lincoln? Or at least, a guy wearing a Flash suit, with a stovepipe hat and an Abraham Lincoln mask. Flashbraham Lincoln took the boxing gloves from the American Poodle-men, at which point the Poodle-men removed their shirts to reveal enormous fake breasts that they jiggled tantalizingly for both Kevin Barnes and the audience.
In spite of the show’s strangeness — or rather, due in part to it — Of Montreal’s show was the best concert I’ve ever seen. The music was amazing, the projected videos and “actors” felt oddly artsy, and kept the whole experience fun. Consider this a heartfelt recommendation: if the chance arises to see Of Montreal live, go for it. And while you’re waiting for them to come by your favorite venue, check out the albums False Priest and Paralytic Stalks. Ever since the show, they’ve spent quite a lot of time spinning on my turntable.
*photos from http://www.ofmontreal.net, video from Youtube