Sometimes I listen to new music and watch new bands perform and think it must be so difficult to try to come up with something different. Anything refreshing, innovative. Which is why I take deep pleasure in performances I know will give me a reason to smile about. Of Montreal has been around for over a decade now, and they still manage to keep things so wonderfully alive and unique that it truly puzzles me—how do they do it? I’d heard so much about their live shows that I knew I was privileged to finally see them live Tuesday at Mohawk. I’m happy to report: they really do live up to the hype.
Painted Palms opened the show with an eager energy. Palms is a relatively new band from San Francisco with fresh, experimental tendencies. They filled their short set with songs from their debut EP, Canopy, which is made up of upbeat synth-pop that instantly got the thin crowd dancing. They were clearly grateful to be playing with of Montreal, excited to be playing in Austin—they even had a “Fuck Yeah Austin” sign on their keyboard to show their enthusiasm. Painted Palms is a duo, made up of cousins Chris Prudhomme and Reese Donohue, but they’re playing as a five-piece band temporarily. The members, who all had quirky, geeky looks (picture Harris from Freaks and Geeks) moved around the stage while keeping their sound impressively tight.
Even though Painted Palms got excellent reception, I have to admit a couple of minutes into of Montreal, I’d forgotten all about them. Of Montreal doesn’t go small. They opened big, big, big, Apollo Creed-”Livin’ in America”-style, Team U.S.A. and all. Right off, the crowd gobbled it up and the show became a party, bright lights and arms flailing everywhere. Mohawk seemed too small a venue for the overwhelming greatness of the show, but mere seconds into “L’age D’or” and I doubt anyone gave it a second thought.
The crowd cheered for each song, and of Montreal proved live performances shouldn’t be a rollercoaster—it’s all about staying up high, all night long. Eager fans lost it well throughout their favorites like “Suffer for Fashion” and “Coquet Coquette” but I have to say, the music was simply an addition, a side dish. It was still oh-so-good and the fans were there because of it, but of Montreal made the audience think—made me think—we got our money’s worth. Because we paid for a show, but what we got was a fucking experience.
After so many years, the band knows they’ve got to live up to people’s expectations of weird. Halfway into “St. Exquisite’s Confessions” I heard an audience member yell out to a friend that he’d posted it on Facebook once and the link was showered with posts of “what the fucks.” That’s what of Montreal is all about. They take all of their psychedelic, heavy ‘70s rock, Bowie-meets-Prince-meets-funk-inspired shit and turn it into newsworthy music. And last night we all got that music, but we also got crowd surfing luchadores, girls scarfing down bananas, lots of neon and feathers and pigheads dancing—a party. To top it all off, if Dior’s looking for their next John Galliano, I’d tell ‘em to hit up Kevin Barnes, ‘cause I’d kill to get into that dude’s closet, are you fucking kidding me? Times like these, it sadly can’t be just about the music. It’s everything. And these guys delivered.
(Of Montreal performed at Mohawk in Austin, Texas on May 17, 2011)