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For those who know of Montreal might know them as a super flamboyant troupe that can round up a crowd of sweet smelling pretty girls and boys who lust after lead singer Kevin Barnes’ sexual copiousness. It wasn’t always this way, but as time went by members disbanded, got married, rehabilitated, and regrouped. In between, I guess you could say they found the voice they were looking for all those years. With over a decades worth of albums, of Montreal have traveled a lengthy journey to where they are now. Ten years ago you could listen to Kevin sing about fairies living life through an unconscious slumber (see album Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse) and before that of Montreal was part of The Gay Parade. (The album is a personal favorite of mine, but it’s narrative style seems to be a bit much for newer of Montreal fans. I still say it would make for a great play). It wasn’t until their 2004 release “Satanic Panic in the Attic” that the pieces started to stay glued together, and the songs became more like a journal for Kevin Barnes’ personal afflictions and affections . Now, of Montreal are an unstoppable traveling circus, and you’d better hope you have tickets to the greatest show on earth when they come to your town, because it is a show not to be missed!
The show featured opening band Painted Palms, a dreamy synth-pop collective that started the night amidst yellow, green and blue lights. Their psychedelic bass thumping tunes from their current release Canopy will get you lost in the woods on a breezy summer afternoon right by a water fall, even in a hot stuffy music venue in New York City.
The follow up to this scene was quite the opposite. It began with the entrance of of Montreal aficionado and Kevin’s brother David Barnes revving up the crowd in a suit. This was followed by some scantily clad ladies in flesh-tone unitards, and men baring capes and colors of the American flag. The set started with the tune “L’age D’or” off their latest E.P. thecontrollersphere. “For Our Elegant Caste” followed as Kevin sang the first line “We can do it softcore if you want/but you should know I take it both ways”. It’s actually Kevin’s alter ego “Georgie Fruit” who is the protagonist in the story, not Kevin himself, but that doesn’t stop the girls and guys from screaming their heads off.
The theatrics continued through out the night as they performed songs mostly from Skeletal Lamping, and “False Priest”, with an interlude of “My Bloody Valentine” performed by drummer Clayton Rychlik. You name it, it was on the stage, Painted Palms even joined in for a few songs and skits. Some of the stagecraft includes lucha-libre stylized mask and wrestling matches, a reenacted wedding, men in nude big breasted costumes, pig faces, booty shaking girls (and boys), balloons, streamers, and that’s not even everything!
Even with all antics on the stage, they performed an unyielding set without missing a beat.
Towards the end of the encore Kevin threw on a mask and pinned down some opponents which was followed by members of the band crowd surfing. Finally, at the end of the show, multi-instrumentalist K Ishibashi performed “America the Beautiful” solo on the violin while the audience sang only to have it turn into an official hoedown on the stage moments later. Though the photos capture a play by play of the show, it is nothing compared to the spectacle everyone witnessed. Wherever this journey continues to take of Montreal, I will be right there with them, and from the looks of it they are going to continue to flourish no matter where it is the freak train drops them off. Perhaps I should invest in a feathered boa and some glitter huh?
Words and photos by Cienna Wills