Concert Review: Of Montreal at Union Transfer (May 12, 2014)

By Matt Rotello

The show opened with Dream Tiger, a keyboard-heavy group that reminded me, at least atmospherically, a little of the Warpaint show I saw a month or two ago at the same venue. Their setup consisted of two interchangeable keyboards, a female vocalist with her own big pedestal of sampling pedals and vocal filters and whatever else, and a drummer who pounded away far more enthusiastically than anyone else in the band. I appreciate his energy despite the simplicity of his parts–it’s always nice when drummers aren’t bored. Their music was atmospheric; dark synths and ambience from the keyboardists, simple but powerful drum patterns, all overlaid with ethereal female vocals (which were occasionally downpitched to sound menacing). All their songs kind of blurred together, and they all felt more or less the same, but that’s not necessarily a complaint. The muted red lighting lent the whole affair a shadowy, almost ominous air, despite the relative gentleness of the music, and the songs flowed into each other pretty well. Overall I enjoyed their set. It didn’t blow my mind, but they were a solid opening act and their performance intrigued me enough to make me check out their recordings, which is really all you can ask for.

And then there was of Montreal, bizarre troubadours from some fantastic land no one’s been to. They were introduced by some weird hybrid of a masked wrestler and a power ranger, who threatened to kill us in the audience, then changed his mind and told us we were all beautiful. I like him. As far as the actual performance, I don’t know if I can really describe it. It was too fantastic, in every sense of the word. Of Montreal’s eclectic blend of whatever they feel like playing at the moment sounds fantastic live, every song far richer and fuller than on record, and they augment the performance with the most bizarre backdrops and stage antics I’ve ever seen. At various points, there were the aforementioned masked wrestling rangers, people carrying huge cutout trees with swirling light projections dancing across them, and a two person high bird with reflective wings that flapped slowly behind Kevin Barnes. The music itself ranged from peaceful indie-folk to psychedelia to the immense, jam-driven finale of flickering strobes and noise. I admit to being less familiar with them than I should be, so I can’t tell you how their choice of setlist was from a diehard perspective, but every song was excellent, and I didn’t see a single person not having a good time in the room, whether dancing or simply nodding their head and smiling. Anyone who hasn’t seen of Montreal yet should really get on that, because it was a fantastic experience all around.