of Montreal (photo: Joshua Huver)
On Wednesday, April 12, Kevin Barnes and his psychedelic, hyper-sexualized, astutely androgynous theater production that is his band, of Montreal, transformed the Catalyst of Santa Cruz into a sonic and visually appetizing madhouse.
Barnes has made a name for himself and his experimental take that comes across as an acid-infused burlesque of short stories. Every song, acting as its own individual story, was shaped in mood by a number of factors outside of the songs themselves, often resulting in an ultra-depressing tale, told amidst myriad palette-cleansing distractions.
One of the most immediate and consistent visuals was undoubtedly the impeccable two-piece skirt, various wigs, and abundant application of eye glitter that adorned Barnes’ most personal canvas: the body.
The band, a suave curation of talents, consists of Clayton Rychlik, whose specialty is the drums, Jojo Glidewell on the keys, bassist Davey Pierce, and Nicolas Dobbratz on an array of keys, percussion, bass, guitar, and horns. They were set up in a straight line, some on risers, across the rear of the stage while Barnes and a guitar stood front and center. A projection screen was spread in the very back, and smaller circular screens were on each side as well. This left plenty of room on the left and right side of the stage for shenanigans and visual displays of the high sensuality of the human body.
Three mute (that is, un-mic’d) persons donned various morph suits from song to song, playing out intricate battles of major forces of power, gender, religion, and personality. During “Id Engager” from near the end of the show, for instance, the trio were dressed in Spiderman-esque luchador costumes. One stood out, completely unlike the other two, with a bright rainbow-striped aura of love and friendship, while the remaining actors were barely distinguishable aside from the flags they wore as capes: One bearing the USA flag and the other the Russian flag.
There were representations of Egyptian cat gods, Chinese dragons and ageless, faceless, formless masks on masks. They were not on the stage for every song — and even when they were on the stage, a stage dive was not completely unexpected, and they utilized every inch of floor space by dancing around between and with Barnes mid song.
As for the actual music that of Montreal made on Wednesday night, there was no shortage of intense reflection and introspection — even if it was wrapped up in an overtly aesthetic bow and disproportionate packaging of funk and idiosyncrasy. The show opened with a pair of tunes off of the bands most recent full length, 2016’s Innoncence Reaches: “Gratuitous Abysses” and the single “Let’s Relate” along with the 2012 track “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” off of Paraltyic Stalks. Check out video of the opening sequence below:
Barnes and Co. continued to dive backwards through their catalog with “Enemy Gene” from 2010’s False Priest before moving forward again with Paralytic’s “Dour Percentage” and “Fugitive Air” from the new album and “Empyrean Abattoir” from the 2015 record Aureate Gloom. Psychedelic projections of cats, bodily limbs, and architecture overflowed the boundaries of the projection screens throughout, washing the entire front of the room in tripped-out visuals throughout the show.
“Stag To The Stable,” a track from the band’s most recent release, led into another pair of Innocence tracks. Of the two tracks, “It’s Different For Girls” featured a large, stage-encompassing Art Deco representation of female genitalia on stage.
The band continued to reach deeper into their catalog for the next tune, “Labyrinthian Pomp,” which appeared on the 2007 release Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? and was the first of several Hissing Fauna tracks to make the show, including “Bunny Ain’t No kind Of Rider.” It’s a fun story, lyrically, with especially psychedelic projections was the beginning of a medley of fan favorite tunes. Check it out below:
Skeletal Lamping’s “Id Engager” broke up the Hissing Fauna streak with the aforementioned luchador wrestling match before lurching into “Gronlandic Edit.” The bassline alone for this tune, along with the concentric psychedelic visuals, made this medley the highlight of the show.
The furthest they reached into the past was “The Party’s Crashing Us” off of the 2005 disc The Sunlandic Twins. Returning to Hissing Fauna, they ended the show with “Suffer For Fashion.”
For the encore, the band returned to the stage for a trio of songs spanning 2007 to 2015, beginning with “Du Og Meg,” the only track from 2007’s Icons, Abstract Thee. “Bassem Sabry” rounded out the middle and the show ended with “Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse.”