By Justin Howerton
As I walked inside the Wonder Ballroom, I was struck by the size of my surroundings. The intimate yet boundless space seemed to shrink by the minute. Having been to two other Of Montreal concerts I felt seasoned enough, but every live show is a different experience, never to be replicated or reproduced.
Of Montreal is a band from Athens, Georgia. Having recorded music under the same name for nearly 20 years, their cult following has steadily grown, and they now maintain an avid fanbase. Striving to reinvent their music with every successive album, Of Montreal has long been recognized for its lyrical experimentation, emphasis on artistic expression and sexual positivity — all personified by flamboyant frontman Kevin Barnes.
Their most recent full-length album, “Innocence Reaches”, marks an important transition in their discography; the lyrics ask salient questions concerning gender fluidity and the treatment of women within contemporary society. By acknowledging the injustices still faced by the LGBTQ community, despite the progress made so far, “Innocence Reaches” begs the listener to question, reflect, and ultimately, to act to advance the status of these marginalized groups.
The show opened with a brief set from local band Reptaliens, whose combination of dreamy rock and electronic riffs succeeded as a subdued introduction for Of Montreal’s performance. After they concluded, red lights appeared from either side of the stage. Fog from an overhead fan billowed into the crowd, and 30 minutes later they arrived. Barnes emerged in a blond wig, red heels and low-cut dress while the other members took their respective places on stage. After opening with an older song, the band quickly transitioned to some of their more recent work such as “it’s different for girls” and “Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia.” Their well-known classics and more experimental pieces were blended through seamless transitions that relied on keys, guitar and improvisation. Most of their songs incorporate synthesized beats, and this coupled with the inherent talent of the members, hypnotic melodies and raw sounds from a variety of instruments proved to be especially effective.
Nothing about the performance was static. Barnes changed into a total of four increasingly flamboyant outfits, and nonsensical images and patterns danced constantly behind the band. Referencing the midterm elections briefly, Barnes remarked that, if people choose to respond to the political results with love, instead of outrage, then the actual outcome of the election is rendered irrelevant. The future of the world, according to Barnes, is built upon a community of acceptance.
However much they were assaulted visually, the energy of the crowd never subsided, but only grew in intensity as the finale approached. After nearly an hour and a half of playing, the band began its parting dues, but the crowd demanded further satisfaction. Strolling out from behind the stage in a final extravagant outfit, Barnes and crew unleashed a torrent of high-energy songs for the encore, including “Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse.” I departed on a wave of light exuberance, feeling the air of musical revelry swiftly dissipate into the night.