Of Montreal are a band I’ve been waiting more than a decade to see live. I first bought one of their albums, “If He Is Protecting Our Nation… Then Who Will Protect Big Oil, Our Children?” without knowing anything about them at a Track & Field gig headlined by Herman Düne at the Barfly in Camden in April 2004. I liked it so much that I ordered “Satanic Panic In the Attic” a few days later, and I now have eighteen of their discs, including ep’s and bonus CDs. In fact there are only eleven other artists I own more releases by in my collection. And yes, I have checked.
Like another band in that list of eleven, The (mighty) Fall, they clearly spend a lot of time thinking about song and album titles, with most of them really not making any sense at all! Their lyrics are completely off the wall, while the music also defies easy categorisation.
I’d never managed to persuade anyone to accompany me to see them while I was still living in London, and this was actually their first ever gig in Liverpool, so I was made up with the chance to finally get to see them. There was just enough time for a pint of Rat’s pleasantly hoppy White Rat in the Dispensary beforehand, while Bayern München were busily rattling a flurry of goals past Porto in their Champions League encounter.
Support at The Kazimier came from young Swedish outfit Holy Family, whose slightly off-kilter synth-driven indie made for a decent start to the evening. They are a three-piece, with vocals alternating between the two frontmen, one of whom was wearing jeans with some extreme turn-ups. Their overall look made me think of the film “Dazed And Confused” for some reason, not that I’ve ever seen it…
They brought to mind a mix of influences, including Pavement, shoegaze (without the wall of guitars), The Flaming Lips and The War On Drugs. One of the final songs featured some great “woo woo”ing, while the two singers swapped instruments for the last song.
The headliners came on to a rapturous reception from the by then busy, youthful crowd, with more than the usual number of women amongst them. They kicked things off with the funky, wandering “Bassem Sabry”, the opening track off their latest album “Aureate Gloom” before winding back the years to 2005’s “The Sunlandic Twins” for some great glam riffing on “Forecast Fascist Future”.
“Empyrean Abattoir” off the new album (which reminds me a bit of Sufjan Stevens), with lyrics including the curious “masturbating your father’s pain”, was followed by the rather ‘rawk’ “Fugitive Air” from 2013’s “Lousy With Sylvianbriar”. As well as the two latest releases, they played quite a few songs off “Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?” from 2007, with the first being “Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider”, which sounded much more euphoric and uplifting live than on record.
The quite trad “Apollyon Of Blue Room” from the latest album came before the gospel-tinged “Hydra Fancies” from 2010’s “False Priest”, featuring a very camp Kevin Barnes playing tambourine instead of the usual guitar. He started Of Montreal back in 1996, when it was just him. Their quirky, somewhat twee indie psych electronic sound has developed over the years, with various members coming and going.
Later highlights in the set included the Herman Düne –esque “Colossus” and “For Our Elegant Caste” from 2008’s “Skeletal Lamping”, with its probably-not-that-ambiguous “you should know that I got both ways” refrain. “Suffer For Fashion” from “Hissing Fauna…” brought on a mass outbreak of serious frugging.
Barnes rarely spoke between songs, other than to state how people often bring up R.E.M. when talking to him, as they are both from Athens, Georgia. He said that we had the better end of the stick by being from the same town as The Beatles, who he claimed were “really underrated” but much better than R.E.M. (and to be fair, he’s dead right, much as I love Michael Stipe & co.). He also stuck in a quick “Day Tripper” riff between songs at one point.
After the funky riffs of “The Party’s Crashing Us” from “The Sunlandic Twins”, the main set ended with the poptastic “Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse” (with its apt “come on chemicals” lyric) before returning to play another track off “Hissing Fauna…” in “Gronlandic Edit”.
It was really good to get to see Of Montreal at long last (one off the band bucket list!), and I thoroughly enjoyed them, as did all of the audience as far as I could tell. I spent the gig up the steps to the right of the stage which gave easy access to the loos and the exit as well as providing a great view of the stage, but meant having to walk through the crowd to get to the bar. However, I may well be tempted to take up that positon for future gigs at the Kaz, until it sadly closes at the end of this year.
I wore my red Track & Field t-shirt (the record label I first discovered Of Montreal through). The only other band tee I could identify was a somewhat incongruous Dead Kennedys one, though there seemed to be a few others there that I couldn’t get a good enough look at to identify.
Here is most of the set list: