September 13, 2017

of Montreal Brings Experimentalism to the Haunt

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The experimental pop band, of Montreal, delivered a theatrical performance at The Haunt in Ithaca on Monday.

The band was founded by lead singer Kevin Barnes in 1996, and their music has since endured various evolutions since their early rock, alternative sound. With the release of their most recent album, of Montreal has embraced an experimental pop vibe that deviates from the style of the band’s 13 previous albums. This performance not only showcased the band’s new sound, but also integrated various songs from their older albums, all which were welcomed by the crowd of veteran fans.

The band’s publicist Naavin Karimbux described Barnes as “a sort of modern day David Bowie.” Though this statement seems a bit too bold, Kevin Barnes certainly knows how to entertain the crowd and his use of costume changes, dancers, sets and theatrics allows him to mimic Bowie, in his drama and androgyny. The first song on of Montreal’s latest album is “let’s relate,” which begins with the lyric, “how do you identify?” This question of identity pervades the band’s music and was an overarching theme of the performance. From the fusing of styles incorporated in the costumes to the variety of musical elements of different genres, of Montreal and its music is truly a fusion of various identities. In this fusion, the band and its music encourage an acceptance of identity, enforcing the way that Barnes was able to invoke the audience to join him rather than listen to him.

The opening act, a group of two women called Nancy’s Feast, set the trippy, entrancing tone for of Montreal’s performance, though parts of their act fell a bit flat. As a combination of interpretive dance, performance art and electronic, synthesized music, the performance felt almost hypnotic, but was rather disjointed. It evoked a sort of robotic attention that did not quite seem to mix with of Montreal’s generally upbeat tone. By the time Nancy’s Feast had finished their act, the audience was eager for the band to come on stage.

The Haunt provided a space that allowed the crowd to interact with Barnes and other members of the band. As the other band members came on stage, the crowd cheered and built the suspense for the arrival of Barnes. He skipped on stage to make his entrance in his first of many androgynous costumes and began singing one of the band’s most popular songs, “Wrath Pinned to the Mist.” Lights flashed various psychedelic 70s-style patterns on the back wall, and Barnes lit up the crowd. His dancing and interactions with the other performers on stage with him encouraged the crowd to similarly engage in a carefree attitude. His dramatic hair and costume may have demanded attention, but it was the combination of the performance between the people on stage and the nature of of Montreal’s music that allowed the performance to generate the upbeat and carefree attitude that the audience surely experienced.


Victoria Horrocks is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].