Of Montreal’s show at McCarren park was a throwback to middle school recess in all the best ways possible. One of the few all-ages shows at Northside Festival happened to be the biggest, and on top of a bill featuring Beach Fossils, the Thermals, and Jens Lekman, the audience was treated to a borderline “greatest hits” set by the Athens, GA crew in a rare instance where they were operating with minimal visuals and stage setup. In a surprisingly not new-album-heavy set, Of Montreal tackled its recent history in a simultaneously smooth and frenetic set as the sun set over the blacktop of the park.
Like recess, people grabbed food (subbing in food trucks instead of sloppy joes and milk cartons) and scarfed it down quickly to get to the fun parts, making their way to the front of the stage. It seemed that everyone came in their specific groups, lounging on a towel (on asphalt, however) and fitting into a grown-up version of a demographic we knew from elementary school. Except, the kids in weird costumes weren’t being made fun of, in fact they fit right in as soon as Kevin Barnes and crew took the stage in their own (well, tamer than usual) costumed garb.
Starting with a long drum intro, the band went straight into “Suffer For Fashion” followed by one of the only two new songs of the night. Each song, however was a powerhouse. “She’s A Rejector” had the crowd jumping; “St. Exquisite’s Confessions” had everyone swaying to sexy saxophones; a cover of “Immigrant Song” had the audience headbanging. There was a hefty dose of Hissing Fauna and Skeletal Lamping tunes, including all 14 minutes of “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal” which I still hold to be their best live song. The 10 minute slow burn crescendo of a song, featuring K. Ishibashi’s screechy violin and Barnes strained yells (when he goes into a gravelly scream, he sounds best), was an appropriate set closer, juxtaposing the low volume of the set before it. The sound issues weren’t the bands fault: the event just happened to be in the middle of a semi-residential area.
Ending with a medley was appropriate for Of Montreal. The band nailed short bits of as many songs as possible. Of Montreal is essentially a medley within itself, from the painful lyrics layered over bouncy instrumentals, to the sexy costumes combined with tight musicianship, and from the fans in strange hats to those who brought their toddlers. And at the center of it all stands Kevin Barnes, the popular kid on the blacktop that everyone wants to watch.