Of Montreal’s performance at the Fonda was not just a concert, but an immersive artistic experience. The show began with an introduction by Lanc, which has become a tradition for Of Montreal’s live acts. Lanc, an individual clad in red gloves and a red ski mask with a Sgt. Pepper-esque jacket and top hat will come on before lead singer, Kevin Barnes. At each show, Lanc will address the audience before welcoming Barnes to the stage. His pre-show speech at the Fonda last week felt prophetic.
“Imagine where we would be if for almost all of human history, more than half of the human brains weren’t silenced - more than half of the humans brains’ ideas’ weren’t stifled. Imagine where we would be! And imagine where we’re gonna go!...We’ve explored the seas, we’ve even gone to goddamn space! But...the new frontier is true equality for everyone! That’s the new world. We might not be able to do that tonight, but tonight we can remember why we even care in the first place. We can keep our fires alive, keep our furnaces going.” - Lanc
All of this was said over the band members playing the bumpin’ and inspirational track, “Lanc’s Theme”. Lanc truly welcomed us to Of Montreal’s artful headspace of psychedelic past meets present day.
Right at his cue, Kevin Barnes erupted on the stage, a massive ball of energy, feeding the crowd. He met the audience in fabulous hot pink tights, pink sparkly heels, a bright blonde wig fastened in a zany updo, and a dress patterned with abstract depictions of the female face. This was only the first of his four outfits. The second was a t-shirt with the entirely capitalized “PARENTAL ADVISORY” notice paired with a hat spray painted “#1 Dad”. This was followed by a butterfly dress with an electric green wig, and finally a patchwork cardigan. It ended with Barnes completely stripped down to wearing exclusively pink tights, spandex, heels, and the green wig. He riveted the audience for the entirety of the show, only stopping half way through to swig a drink, telling us, “I started getting into sake.”
The set list bounced us back and forth through the chronology of the band, sharing pieces from their 2018 album, White is Relic/Irrealis Mood, all the way back to their 2004 hit, “Chrissy Kiss the Corpse”. They transported us through history by performing a psychedelic cover of Ruby & the Romantic’s “Our Day Will Come”. That original 1962 song has been covered by generations of musicians including Cher, Amy Winehouse, the Carpenters, and Franki Valli.
Barnes was joined on stage by fellow musicians, Jojo Glidewell, Davey Pierce, Bob Parins, and Clayton Rychlik. All of them rotated through a variety of instruments throughout the show and jumped in sync with Barnes during the songs. More complex choreography was performed by Barnes with his elaborately costumed backup dancers. These dancers wore the intricate headpieces including robot human heads, silver deer heads, giant day of the dead skulls, and human faces with testicles for chins.
Much of their choreography had sexual under(or over)tones. At one point Barnes lurched forward and back on his knees in front of one of the dancers dressed in a pink spandex bodysuit, wielding a whip. Another dancer in the mask with testicles for a chin leaned back on their knees, waving a large fan up at Bob Parins, also suggesting oral sex. The audience screamed and moshed especially enthusiastically at these points. Just when I thought the spectators couldn’t be whipped into a greater frenzy over the performance, acrobats were sent crowd surfing. One did the splits over the crowd!
Fantastical projections designed for each song lit up the back drop. For example, the projection sequence for “Let’s Relate,” a song with a chorus questioning, “How do you identify? How do you i.d.?” features a set of projections provoking the same questions. First to be projected were a series of different human heads that as lights flash, the x-ray of skulls shine through. The projections change part way through the song to show a new conveyor belt of human bodies with skulls for heads that have lightning bolts cutting down through the genitals, making it impossible to decipher their genders.
The show closed with a man dressed as a cowboy lip-syncing to Toby Keith’s “Should Have Been A Cowboy,” only to mechanically shut down and be upstaged by the band’s encore.
Of Montreal’s concert at the Fonda was an artful spectacle that left me awestruck. My artistic ‘furnace’, as Lanc put it, has been stoked. So, I’m going to leave you with a quote that Kevin Barnes said to us at the venue, “People have been prophesying the end of the world since the beginning of the world, so there’s no real reason to lose hope now.”
— Jordan Kessler, DJ