- Holy Family
Since the release of their debut album Cherry Peel in 1997, OF MONTREAL have been a constantly evolving animal. Impossible to pin down and always surprising, their startling array of output over the past eighteen years has been matched by a propensity for absurd live shows. At one such performance Kevin Barnes appeared on the stage riding a horse, and these exhibitionist tendencies have become a part of the myth. However, at tonight’s show we see a more subtle and, dare I say, mature, display from Barnes’ band, but before that Swedish three-piece HOLY FAMILY grace us with their presence.
Clearly emanating from the same psychedelic pop territory as the headliners, Holy Family are a web of off-kilter melodies and clever guitar parts. Simply structured and memorable, their songs have a naive quality that seem to stem from a love of melody. Scandinavians have a history of producing brilliant pop-song writers, and these guys are part of a new wave that includes the likes of Kate Boy and Little Dragon.
In terms of musical generations, Of Montreal came into existence as part of one of the most influential groups of the 90s, that being the Elephant Six Collective. As they descend the stairs to the stage, it is apparent from the furore that this legacy – as well as their own, unique identity – has afforded them a large and enthusiastic following. With a new cast the Of Montreal party is definitely in town, but there is a sense that the days of outlandish costumes and cabaret-esque personas are in the past and what we get instead is a more subdued but equally enthralling display. With found footage and stylish animation projected behind them, they meander through an array of songs which encompasses much of their back catalogue. Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse is a highlight and sees the near-capacity crowd burst into movement, and it is surprising how many of those present manage to sing along considering the complex, labyrinthine nature of Barnes’ lyrics.
It’s apparent from the start that most people are there to dance, and so when the set lulls for a time in the middle there is a slight decline in attention from the crowd. But with the first strains of Bunny Ain’t No Rider the atmosphere is restored.
For first-timers like myself it’s an enriching experience to see the way in which certain musical avenues within the songs are explored in a live setting. Never one to rest on his laurels or settle for convention, Barnes’ music is an entity in constant motion, and to see those movements in the flesh is fascinating. Performed to a crowd, the songs take on new life and transform into warped versions of the recorded tracks, meaning every show is a unique organism, and that is why I and everyone else in the room will take the opportunity to see them whenever we can.