What do you get when you mix in animal masks, experimental indie music, oldskool abstract drama pieces and Kevin Barnes, lead singer of of Montreal, all kinds of naked (well almost) dancing around a brightly lit stage with a huge disco ball shining on top? Well the last ingredient gave it away a bit didn’t it? This was the recipe for “of Montreal”‘s* live concert at the lovely Koko (calling Koko lovely makes the venue sound like a lady) in Camden.
* = last time I’ll use speech marks to name the band, you’ll realise it’s not a grammatical error
Now we all read about Emiliana Torrini rocking out in biblical proportions (and if you haven’t, read it!), this time it was of Montreal rocking out in theatrical proportions, if you’ve been to one of their shows you’ll immediately know what I mean and give an approving nod and smile (and perhaps saying “oh yeah” in your head), if you haven’t, well lets consider this a lovely introduction to the wacky wonders of of Montreal. A gig full of random surprise scenes and occasional naked dancing.
After a surreal (surreal in a good way) acoustic performance at Rough Trade East, I was more anticipated to see of Montreal perform live at a proper venue with full on electric guitars and whatnot. Not only did it give me all that, but there was definitely a hell of a lot more than just quirky experimental psychedelic indie music. If of Montreal’s gig was an animal, it’d be classically trained drama dog with an elizabethian ruff, if it was a person it’d be santa clause on acid, on christmas day, getting laid. It was simply a gig you can only appreciate once you’re actually there. Anyway, lets start from the top.
After promptly finishing work I went to meet up with Chalky, a fellow music blogger from terriblelovesongs.com at the station next to the venue. There was a queue for the gig so we stood by and chillaxed for a bit, talking about camera smuggling and Koko before it got closed down and reopened. I’ve revised my camera smuggling techniques a bit for tonight and that seemed to have worked (the bag contains more junk than ever to further stall the security and make them impatient during the search). This part was usually easy for me, it’s the next bit that scares me. We got in without any problems.
“they performed a powerdriver on stage! a piledriver!”
We secured a nice spot in front (at the expense of carefully pushing two ickle fans out of the way). This is where I met a few flickr members in the venue. One in particular was Preamble. I always found it funny how we’ve been in the same gigs a fair few amount of times but never met. So tonight I decided to find him and say hi, I instantly recognised him by his G9 camera and the fact that he was at the front, I intentionally took out my G9 just so he’d recognise me and to also confuse people around us like we’re in some cult with a certain model of cameras (or something weird, we are seeing a of Montreal gig afterall). We started talking; mainly about gig photography no doubt I also met a few people from the instore shows at rough trade and suddenly I was all over the place with people I’ve met before, I probably should have introduced everyone but that would have been a bit cheesy.
“ninjas! prove it!”
There was only one support band tonight (Eugen McGuiness) and they were pretty cool, unfortunately I didn’t bring out the dslr for this gig since I was saving that for the headline band. Once they were done I had a few more random conversations with people around me whilst people starting setting up the stage, I initially thought there were two support bands but turned out it was only one, it become more apparent that of montreal were next when the setlists were placed on the ground next to the mic stands, the number of tracks were pretty high so unless the second support band were playing micro micro 1 minute songs, no way were they playing all of that, especially at 9pm, we have homes to go to and everything!
The lights turn down and the band appeared on stage, instantly getting down and dirty with Id Engager, their latest single to their recently released album Skeletal Lamping. All the songs were colourful, if you’ve heard the album too you’ve noticed that there were quite a few micro songs in the tracks, this was perfectly transferred to the live show. The band had recently acquired a new drummer to the band so the music was more thumping than ever (not that it made a difference to me since it was my first time I saw them).
She answered, ‘no but yes oh well oh well yes and no’
Kevin Barnes wore a pretty fancy blue blazer and danced around with his Gibson guitar. You also note that he’s sporting some pretty fancy red shoes which shimmer around the floor whenever he dances to a song (and he was a pretty cool dancer). The clothes the band were wearing was a complete juxtapose to the ones they were wearing at Rough Trade, a clear distinction between casual clothes and stage clothes (because who wants to play a gig in their tracksuit bottoms). Judging from what they were wearing and their bouncy/spunky “in yo face” attitude, you instantly knew that these guys are pros at entertaining a crowd.
Ninja’s started appearing out of nowhere and mimic’ed Kevin’s dancing (they’re ninja’s, there’s nothing they can’t do! *SMOKE BOMB*) from then on we were pretty much expecting anything to happen, which it did. The show was not only fruity, but creatively abstract and fascinating. The stage became a theatre stage with music, it was no longer a music gig, it was like a small non profit theatre group had gatecrashed the stage because they were also meant to perform tonight too.
“i’m always so dubious of your intent, like i can’t afford to replace what you’ve spent”
The setlist consisted mainly of tracks from Skeletal Lamping, but also featured quite a bit of tracks from Hissing Fauna, Are you The Destroyer? Including Heimdalsgate Like a Prom and Gronlandic Edit (which wasn’t actually on the setlist!) Pretty much all the songs from the previos show were played, and it was nice to see them with the full on gear used, hearing them played two different ways was simply a treat. My favorite songs were For our elegant caste (again haha) and St Exquisites confessions (the first line just cracks me up!). Anyhow more on the setup and theatrical bits.
The thing people raved most about of the show was the fact that people in masks and/or costumes appear on stage to further illustrate the songs played as well as entertain us cheerful gig attendees, even though there was a projector playing videos to accompany the music (some clips were pretty funny, including random photos of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and other female celebrities), it was not as epic as having a bunch of people having fun with masks. The scenes were highly dramatic and at one point, one of the people on stage did something I would have never imagined one could do at a music gig, they gave another person a PILEDRIVER! Just for those who don’t know (and that’s a lot of you), lately I’ve had an obsession of solving all life’s problems by giving the person who’s causing the trouble a straight forward, no questions asked piledriver. I usually have that as my first suggestion whenever someone tells me a problem, don’t ask me why i do it (i just do!). So yeah, seeing this enacted on stage just made me squeee ever so much!
“I check my aperture my shutter speed my domino”
It’d probably be too painful to talk about every scene on stage so hopefully some videos of the show I recorded will explain (note I did record quite a bit). Video’ing the gig was fairly easy since I was in front. Again like all videos you’ll have to excuse me for swaying the camera around intentionally.
There’s more videos if you check out my youtube video channel, I kinda go nuts in terms of video’ing them because it was such an interesting show.
As the show went on, things got a bit more heated, and perhaps literally because around the halfway point of the show, Kevin Barnes walks off for a bit and reappears wearing just a simple robe. He is also stalked by two guys in masks, slowly showing a wee conflict between the two parties. What happened next ladies and gentleman was shocking, that’s right, the masked men remove Kevin Barnes’ robe covering most of his shame and instantly, Kevin was essentially all kinds of naked. The only things he was wearing was a purple belt, a necklace, some gold hot pantsy short short kinda type thing and some shiny sandals, the venue was pretty chilly so I had no idea how cold he was, but it was all part of the show (only wimps complain about the weather and temperature).
Once naked he laid down on his side and let the people paint him red, it was surreal but all part of the fun. This was all happening whilst they were performing away (Kevin obviously singing with his wireless micromaphone). After that he pretty much played the rest of the gig in the pants! At one point I noticed the roadie man run to the guitar and started cutting the guitar strings off the neck, probably so they don’t poke Kevin whilst he was playing them hehe (wouldn’t like playing guitar naked).
“I’m so sick of sucking the dick of this cruel cruel city”
I can’t remember what song they played near the end (the setlist wasn’t followed as thoroughly enough!), but as they left the stage (obviously for an encore) you can see Kevin getting changed behind a pillar teehee. They came on again and played a few more tracks, and to end in style they did a cover of “Smells like Teen Spirit”. The crowd went roaring with excitement, everyone knew the song and it was generally a good song to just go wild and rock out, if you squint hard enough and perhaps knock yourself slightly unconscious for a bit you could probably pretend it was actually Nivarna playing (haha i kid). Though this song has been covered to death (mainly be small kiddy bands who started college) it was nice to see it done in a large venue by a band like of Montreal. It was a hectic gig nonetheless! They left the show with a buzz and a bang! I said goodbye to everyone and promptly vanished back to whence I came, constantly eavsdropping at people highly rating the gig, I was so glad I went tonight.
So yeah, enjoy the photos and if you haven’t got the album, buy it now! and if they’re playing close by to you, GO GO GO!