Of Montreal @ Southgate House – Newport, KY (2.26.06)

“I think of it more as me buying your love for a dollar–and I win.” – Of Montreal’s merch guy

The above words were spoken to me when the guy running Of Montreal’s merch booth let me buy an LP and tshirt for all the money I had. When I said that I loved him for giving me what basically amounted to a dollar’s worth of merch, he said that he was the real winner because he got my love. And isn’t love worth more than money? I don’t know about you, but Of Montreal sure seem to think so.

In a way, that little exchange at the merch booth was the perfect beginning for a perfect night. As our conversation might have implied, Of Montreal were willing to go to great lengths to win our love. But as they made very clear, one thing had to be taken care of before the lovin’ could commence: the wedding.

As the stage filled up with the other members of Of Montreal, a few people were murmuring about the lack of the group’s eccentric frontman Kevin Barnes. But as the rest of the group began playing the wedding march, we quickly found out why he was missing: he had to make an entrance in a wedding gown. Kevin explained that they wanted to make love to the audience all night long, but that they were “old fashioned girls” so we had to get married first. Once we said our “I do”s, the evening really got underway.

It’s funny. If you’ve never experienced Of Montreal first hand, you might think that they’d be strictly a studio band. I mean, Kevin obviously spends so much time making sure that every detail is perfectly arranged on each song that it’d be only natural to picture them as not being able to reproduce their sound in a live setting. But if you have seen an Of Montreal show, you know this couldn’t be less true. The band had obviously spent weeks practicing for their most recent tour. Not to say that they didn’t have plenty of unscripted antics on stage, however. I doubt anyone in attendance will forget the look on Dottie’s face when Kevin told the audience about her “perfect breasts.” It doesn’t get much funnier than that.

But as silly as they acted, there was nothing foolish about their music. Every note was perfectly executed with both flair and talent. Of particular note was their way of bringing The Sunlandic Twins songs to life. The difference between the album versions and the energetic live performance was staggering. I can promise you that there was not an unshaken butt in the house when the bass line to “Wraith Pinned to the Mist” kicked in.

After closing their main set with an awe-inspiring performance of “The Party’s Crashing Us,” the band left for just long enough to make us worry. With over an hour’s worth of performance already having past, were we to expect any more? After much cheering and yelling, Kevin and the gang bounded out onto the stage. And in a move that can only be described as this reviewer’s dream come true, he invited Robert Schneider onto the stage.

Kevin explained that the band were huge fans of the Apples in Stereo, and told Robert that they wanted to cover one of his songs. Robert sang along at the Late B.P. Helium’s microphone while Of Montreal tore through a rocking rendition of the Apples classic “Seems So.” Everyone on stage looked as though they were having the time of their lives, and that happiness couldn’t help but bleed over onto the audience. When a band’s enjoying themselves this much, you’ve got to be having fun.

In what might be one of the best one-two setlist punches that I’ve ever seen, the band reacted to Robert’s hug-filled departure from the stage by launching into “Jennifer Louise.” While fans had be shouting out for oldies like “Fun Loving Nun” or “Nickee Coco,” this choice seemed to satisfy even the most diehard of fans. After they’d finished the song, Kevin asked the audience if we liked Brian Eno. An enthusiastic response ensued, and then Kevin announced that Brian Eno would be joining them on stage to cover one of HIS songs. The result was a mixture of laughter from the more ‘hip’ among the crowd, and craned necks from those unsure of who exactly Brian Eno was. Kevin then explained that Mr. Eno couldn’t make it because, well, “he’s British.”

Just as all good things must do, Of Montreal’s show eventually came to an end. And while a part of me wishes that I was still back there right now, I don’t think that it could have been any better. The band put everything into their performance, and it showed. There was love made at the Southgate House that night; but it wasn’t the kind between a man and a woman. It was the kind between a band that honestly loves performing, and an audience that couldn’t have been happier to witness it.

Thanks to Andrew P, Zach, and Cameron L, for their respective photos

WMV: Of Montreal w/Robert Schneider – Seems So (Apples in Stereo)

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