Of Montreal Break Out Sexy Abraham Lincoln and Glitter to Perform Aureate Gloom

Jason Speakman for the Village Voice
Kevin Barnes takes to the mic at Webster Hall with of Montreal.
Kevin Barnes's brainchild of Montreal is no stranger to reinvention. Over the course of thirteen albums, the Athens, Georgia, collective has experimented — rather successfully — with everything from twee pop to r&b funk to its latest rock-punk hybrid (Aureate Gloom, released earlier this month). The main consistency from release to release is Barnes's tendency toward the TMI: He digs deep, and weirdly, into the darkest corners of his psyche, to profound effect.

Also consistent has been of Montreal's penchant for the theatrical. Years and years of touring has yielded such sights as Barnes, mostly naked, riding a horse onstage at Roseland Ballroom; dancers being crucified; and too many wedding-dress costumes to count. Over-the-top has been the name of the game, which has produced some of the strangest — and most fun — show-going experiences of the past decade.

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Live: Of Montreal And Jens Lekman Bliss Out At McCarren Park

Robert Sietsema
Of Montreal w/Jens Lekman
McCarren Park
Friday, June 15

Better than: Listening to Diamond Dogs during your "Poststructuralism and Feminist Theory" seminar.

Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman's loss was serendipitous curation's gain during the Northside Festival's biggest show. Onstage alone due to "some unexplained visa issues" involving the band that was supposed to join him in a "brand-new set," Leman made minimalist lemonade. His sweet acoustic set stripped away the baroque layers of strings and horns that layer much of his music, providing an ideal appetizer for Of Montreal's imminent glam-rock maximalism.

Lekman's Scandinavian cool nicely quelled the glaring sun and McCarren Park's baking concrete. Songs usually trump real life in Lekman's light-footed autobiographical blend of humor and melancholy. The self-described "suburban potato-chip boy" of "Waiting for Kirsten," wherein he stalks actress Kirsten Dunst during her visit to his Gothenburg hometown, sounded plenty blue during "Every Little Hair Knows Your Name" from his forthcoming I Know What Love Isn't (Secretly Canadian). Lekman sings the praises of a well-adjusted, practical sort of marriage—one for citizenship—in his new album's title track. Later there was the Fassbinder-ian dread of "A Postcard to Nina," in which a gay friend tries to pass him off as her fiancée during a cringingly uncomfortable dinner with Dad.

Later in his set, he cranked up some canned horns and Enoch Light samples, spread his arms like wings, and cruised about the stage in pop bliss. Was he aware of how neatly this would foreshadow Of Montreal's own winged entities? Probably not.

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2010: The Year In Music Photos

The year in music, circa 2010, started at the Cake Shop, with a shred-down to the New Year courtesy of Siren Festival MVP-to-be Marissa Paternoster and her band Screaming Females. After a tour through the NYE fetes of the Lower East Side and Williamsburg, that night ended amidst a marathon show at Bushwick's Shea Stadium, right around the time the Blastoids' drummer poured paint on his kit and started splattering away.

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Live: Of Montreal, Janelle Monae, and a Pair of Manpigs Take Over Terminal 5

all photos by Rebecca Smeyne
The new King and Queen of the misfit teens.

Of Montreal, Janelle Monae
Terminal 5
Saturday, September 18

Better than: Any music currently being made by actual teenage girls.

In a characteristically intellectual/saucy dis on his new album False Priest, Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes dismisses someone (perhaps himself) with a pat, "You fetishize the archetype." The traditional alt-rock archetype obviously concerns the weird, sensitive youngster who feels alienated from their peers, sinks into the world of left-of-center art, and emerges with a burning desire to Prove Them All Wrong. It's pretty rare that this model works out so that a 30-something Georgia-based indie rocker turns himself into the sassiest teenage girl performing in pop music today, but Of Montreal are special in a lot of ways.

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On Janelle Monáe's "Make The Bus," Featuring Of Montreal, Though Really It's The Other Way Around

Listen to it here. No "Tightrope," but pretty lithe and groovy and weird. Super-weird. Topics: terrible fixations, androids dreaming of electric sheep, Peter Pan, Juicy Fruit. Great drum sound. (It's no "California Gurls," but what is?) Also: This is a straight-up Of Montreal song in which Janelle herself barely merits a "featuring." She is entirely subsumed by Kevin Barnes' titanic psych-pop otherworldliness: Best you can say is that their two voices here seem to merge into one really really high-maintenance androgynous diva android. This record (out next week) is gonna be 50 different kinds of just fuckin' crazy.

Of Montreal and Ghostface Killah Played Columbia's $100k Spring Bacchanal

All photos by Rebecca Smeyne

If there's any metaphor for the price tag on elite higher education, just look to its student-run concerts. For Columbia's 250th anniversary a few years back, this alum remembers a blowout that included a no-show by Erykah Badu and one recently-hospitalized Wyclef Jean claiming painkillers as an excuse to scale the stage's light towers instead of performing more than 40 seconds of his songs. This to the horror and amazement of thousands in attendance.

Not to be outdone, this year's annual spring Bacchanal festivities (theme: "Chewbacchanal") reported a budget "over the $100,000" mark" and included performances from Of Montreal, Ghostface Killah, and Wiz Khalifa. ("Spending Columbia's money is very hard to do and takes a long time," the Columbia Spectator quoted Bacchanal treasurer Cleopatra McGovern as saying last week.) Last year's show (uber-famous alumni Vampire Weekend, Talib Kweli) brought in an estimated 1,000 students. This year's budget couldn't buy any performers scaling the stage, but it did afford Kevin Barnes, Ghostface Killah, Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa, and a white-powdered guy in his tighty whities.

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Download the Of Montreal/Solange Knowles Cover of "I Want You Back"

So this happened, and then current Voice print star NYCTaper--about whom you can read much, much more here--went ahead and vindicated certain editors over here, recording the entire set and getting it online not 24 hours after Of Montreal and Solange Knowles set the Internet on fire by covering the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." (Susan Sarandon may have had something to do with all the hubbub too.) Anyway, see how that works? Go download the evening's entire set over here. "I know, when I go out 150 times a year, very few of those shows will have historical significance," dude told us the other day. "It's a realistic thing." [NYCTaper]

Here Is A Video Of Susan Sarandon Spanking Pigs Onstage At Last Night's Of Montreal Concert At Highline Ballroom

Yeah, so, this happened. Plus Solange showed up and sang the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," which you can peruse below, while you're ruminating on what you did last night and why you didn't go to this show instead.

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Live: The Psychedelic Lunacy and High Production Values of Of Montreal

Rebecca Smeyne

Of Montreal/Janelle Monáe
Music Hall of Williamsburg
Thursday, April 16

"I wanna do my dance. Can I do my dance? It's called the Sophisticated Sissy." And then Kevin Barnes does the Sophisticated Sissy, which is pretty aptly named, and is but one element in an overpowering barrage of visual stimuli: In addition to the neo-disco lights, the three giant projection screens, and his bedazzled bandmates (particularly the Legion of Doom guy on double-necked guitar), there are four actors/dancers whose various costumes/scenarios I can only begin to describe. (My notes include "Red priest bless crazy guy strips priest now two crazy guys," "'The Stash' porno scene multi-pig spanking," "Jovial prancing stormtrooper buddhas turned ninjas," "Shirtless pink man distribute T-shirts," and "Tiger/ninja standing 69 looks difficult." Characters undressing other characters is a major theme.)

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