Day two of indie pop band Of Montreal’s three-day stay at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg proved to be just as magical as the first time seeing them perform years ago. The crowd waited anxiously until almost 11:30 for their heroes to hit the stage. Members of the band came out one by one- every one of them dressed to the nines in odd, brightly colored costumes. Watching from the side of the stage, per usual, was frontman Kevin Barnes’s wife and daughter. Barnes is the last to make his way onto the stage, and waves to his kinfolk before walking out to an uproar from his devoted fans.
Of Montreal is a band that has managed to change their sound while still staying true to their origins and simultaneously keeping the fans happy. At this particular show, it was very apparent that their fan base has expanded beyond the indie rock scene. There was a clear distinction between old fans and new, as they reacted to songs from throughout their catalogue differently. Veteran fans appreciated songs from their earlier days and bopped along. Songs from their latest release “Skeletal Lamping” brought out young, party-types who jumped around as if they were in a club or rave.
This is not to the band’s discredit. Of Montreal has managed to vary their musical influences from psychedelic and vaudeville to funk and afrobeat, and with each release gaining new fans. It’s an incredible feat how the band manages to branch out to so many different musical style while still carrying on their distinctive, quirky sound that can only be attributed to them.
Formed in 1997 in Athens, Georgia, the band came out of the Elephant 6 collective that has also produced such names as Neutral Milk Hotel, Apples in Stereo, and the Olivia Tremor Control. Of the lot, Of Montreal has definitely been the group to catch the most commercial success.
They’ve had so much recent commercial success as of late that it has been the topic of much discussion among fans and music snobs alike. The band notoriously lent their single “Wraith Pinned to the Mist & Other Games” to Outback Steakhouse. The commercial featured the same music but with Barnes singing “Let’s go Outback tonight” instead of the original lyrics. Fans were originally horrified, but Barnes somehow made it completely justified by responding in an essay to his fans on Stereogum.com. In it, he states that “We all have to do certain things, from time to time, that we might not be completely psyched about in order to pay the bills” and that “Selling out, in an artistic sense is to change one’s creative output to fit in with the commercial world. I‘ve never done this and can’t imagine I ever will.” Not to mention the band was spotlighted in a T Mobile commercial that came out only a few months later.
The lineup of the band has changed often, with Kevin Barnes being the only constant member. But with a frontman like him, it begs the question, what more could one need? Barnes is practically legendary within the indie rock world with his vibrant clothing choices, unique lyricism, and unapologetic attitude. He writes with absolute honesty about almost everything, including taboo topics involving sex, drugs, loneliness, and depression. Despite some of the darker themes in his writing, the dark tones are very often contrasted with light and cheery music. It is this sense of irony that the band tends to exude from their loud stage clothes to the oddly dressed dancers that accompany them on stage. No one could ever say that the band takes themselves too seriously- they are clearly all about entertaining their audience. I think it’d be very hard to find anyone leaving Of Montreal’s live show that would say that they weren’t entertained.