Of Montreal – Oran Mor, Glasgow 26/01/2008
“Based on your tastes, Amazon recommends ‘The Best Gay Anthems in the World, Ever’.”
How do you tell a computer that, while it doesn’t actually matter whether or not it thinks you’re gay, you have no desire to listen to the high energy club tunes and camp divas warbling that populate such CD’s?
This was an issue I faced years ago, shortly after discovering Of Montreal. I had first heard them on Internet Radio and was intrigued enough by their Elephant 6 connections to download a few tunes, which lead to ordering their most-recent,-at-that-time, album: ‘The Gay Parade’. At that point, somewhere deep in the Amazon servers, an algorithm spotted the word ‘Gay’ in the title, and my user account was promptly transferred to a folder labled ‘Fabulous’, in pink, 72 point Arial. My recommendations for the next few months tended to consist of CD’s featuring topless, oily men on the cover.
Incidentally, it was about another year before I actually heard the full album since Amazon took it upon themselves to turn the online purchase of an album into an epic quest in search of the CD. An order which was originally supposed to despatch within 7 days was pushed back to being within 28 days. Then another 28 days. Then an email was sent, saying they were waiting for more stock, then another saying the stock hadn’t arrived and they were trying other suppliers. Eventually, they threw in the towel and advised they had cancelled the order.
When I did finally did hear the album, I was charmed by how authentically recorded-in-1967 they managed to sound. It had the lyrical innocence of Pet Sounds and, unlike a lot of other 60’s wannabe’s, sounded fresh, with just a hint of nostalgia for a bygone age that never really existed. The album was full of sweet songs about being happily, comfortably in love. Songs like ‘Neat Little Domestic Life’ and ‘Old Familiar Way’.
Of course, it’s well documented how trouble (albeit temporary) in Kevin Barnes personal paradise materialised a few years later. Finding himself plunged into a dark place, he gave birth to his flamboyant alter-ego Georgie Fruit, who brought about a huge evolution in the bands sound.
So it’s a different band I’m waiting to hear tonight than I would have heard back then. Waiting here on my own, I might add since Sydne is off to Fopp to buy a present for a friend, so I’m stuck here, holding place at the head of the (not-yet-existent) queue.
I therefore had nothing better to do than amuse myself with the sign on the door, which read: ‘This is a non-smoking premise’, which made it sound more of a suggestion than an order.
Shortly before Sydne appeared back, a guy came out and advised they were experiencing some ‘technical difficulties’ so might be a bit late.
After Sydne apeared back, I was standing with my back to the stairs and heard someone descending the stairs directly above my head. Sydne glanced up and, suppressing a laugh, instructed me not to look. A man in full kilt appeared, walked straight past us and tried the door. When it didn’t budge, he tried a bit harder. Still no progress. He yanked it as hard as he could to the extent that he nearly ripped it from the door completely. I was about to point out that the door was in fact, locked, a fact which was clearly eluding him, but just as I drew breath to speak, he let out an exasperated splutter and strode off again at full pelt back up the stairs.
Sydne was still suppressing a laugh and buy this point was close to turning purple. ‘So’, I asked her, ‘Was he a true Scot?’ After she regained her composure, she claimed she hadn’t noticed but I’m not sure I believe her.
As the sound of bagpipes flared up from Oran Mor’s upstairs venue (I presume a Burns supper, although, if it was, it was a day late) the queue started to grow. About fifteen minutes late, the doors eventually opened. Sydne headed for the stage and I got the drinks in.
When I joined her at the stage, conversation turned to the support act. I was particularly impressed by their lo-fi maraca which sat just in front of us, consisting of a used coke bottle with some rice in it. There was an extension chord next to it with ‘Casiokids’ written in black marker on the side. This adaptor had plugs with only two prongs sticking out of it. I applied my Sherlock Holmes like deduction skills to conclude they must not be from Britain. Only later, after their set and, more importantly, after they had already told us all where they were from, did I spot the ‘Scandanavia Made’ tag on the keyboard about 2 ft from my nose which may have helped me pinpoint a bit more.
Normally, when a band consists of four tall slim blokes and one short, normal looking one, you can bet he writes all the songs. Casiokids had that dynamic. I have no idea if my prejudice is correct or not but in this case, the normal one looked a bit like a young Micky Dolenz. He was also the smiliest man on earth. I immediately warmed to them.
Musically, they sounded exactly like you might imagine a Scandanavian band called the Casiokids to sound. Which is not a bad thing. They were fun and bouncy with lots of lo-budget electronic noises on display.
The arrival of Of Montreal was heralded by a 6ft tall tiger in a white dinner jacket miming for us to cheer as loud as we could.
The band strode on and launched straight into ‘She’s a Rejector’. While they raced through the song, they were joined on stage by two strange human statues. One kneeled on the ground and was being whipped across his back by the other. They were then joined by a couple in ‘country laird and lady’ dress who started arguing with the statue who was dispensing the whipping which degenerated into a fist fight as the band played on around them.
For the next song, they were joined by a man with a handlebar moustache dressed as priest. His cassock was then ripped off (by a guy in a pig costume) and a pagan symbol was drawn on his chest, then devil horns were placed on his head. I was starting to realise that Of Montreal shows are as much about the performance as the music.
Other theatrical antics included strange golden statues like a melting plastic buddha. The whole show was clearly aiming for the euphoric party atmosphere of a Flaming Lips concert and, though they may not compare musically to the Flips best moments, atmosphere wise, they came close occasionally. The whole thing was one big party.
Now, comments on LastFM suggest there were a lot of annoying people in the crowd. From my position right down the front, I missed this and thought it had actually been a good crowd. (Hope that doesn’t mean we were among the annoying ones?) There was just one girl however who, while she may not have been annoying me, was clearly pissing off the stage manager throughout the gig. She was standing directly in front of The Late BP Helium and was very grabby.
Every time she tried to grab anyone from the stage within arms reach, she would knock the camera on BP’s mic stand, causing the stage manager to come running back on and align it again. His evil stares towards her grew stronger each time, culminating in looking hard at her, giving the universally-recognised ‘I’m watching you’ hand sign, then, after pointing at the camera concluded with the, also-universally-recognised, throat slash gesture.
This managed to refrain her until the next song, when, what looked like ninjas with fencing masks appeared and started slinking towards the front few rows and indulge in stroking their faces and hair. This of course was enough to set grabby girl off again.
This may well be the first gig I’ve been to with actual, proper costume changes, like Liza Minelli or someone. I’m sure when Liza Minelli does it though, she doesn’t re-emerge clad in a bulging fake fur jumpsuit wired up to a smoke machine which pumps dry ice from every orifice.
It lasted for one song before he stripped off completely to a shiny pair of sequenced briefs. Again, one more song before he disappeared offstage and reappeared for the final song of the main set covered from chin to ankle in shaving foam.
While they were offstage before the encore, I started eying up Kevins setlist and contemplated grabbing it but I decided to leave it until they had finished. This proved to be a mistake since within seconds of reappearing back onstage and launching into Suffer for Fashion, he kicked it backwards, out of his way and well out of my arms reach. Bugger.
As soon as the song finished, I made a quick change of tact and grabbed Nina’s which involved lying onstage slightly but by then, there were so many people onstage, it went unnoticed.
Some of these people onstage shuffled forwards and pointed a cannon at the crowd, out of which an explosion of feathers covered us all in the first few rows. Kevin mentioned they had recently supported Franz Ferdinand and then launched into a cover of Franz’s ‘Take me out’.
Everyone piled back on stage all at once. The touchy-feely fencing ninjas grab sydnes camera and attempted to take a picture of her. When it was handed back, it had a worrying message suggesting all the photos have been erased. Fortunately, as you can see, they weren’t.
They immediately followed ‘Take Me Out’ with a cover of ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’. Finishing with covers of two other peoples anthems could be seen as cheating slightly and in the cold light of day, it shouldn’t have worked. By that point in the gig though, they had fostered enough of a party atmosphere that they managed to get away with it.
As a final gift, when The Late BP Helium was leaving stage and launched his plectrum into the crowd, it must have ricoched off the ceiling since it landed IN MY HAND.
As grabby girl pushed in front of us to harrass the stage crew about something or other, we wrestled to retrieve our feather covered jackets and bags from under her feet. At the time of writing, it’s four days later and I still haven’t managed to get all the feathers off of it.