Of Montreal w/Jens Lekman
Friday, June 15
Better than: Listening to Diamond Dogs during your “Poststructuralism and Feminist Theory” seminar.
Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman’s loss was serendipitous curation’s gain during the Northside Festival’s biggest show. Onstage alone due to “some unexplained visa issues” involving the band that was supposed to join him in a “brand-new set,” Leman made minimalist lemonade. His sweet acoustic set stripped away the baroque layers of strings and horns that layer much of his music, providing an ideal appetizer for Of Montreal’s imminent glam-rock maximalism.
Lekman’s Scandinavian cool nicely quelled the glaring sun and McCarren Park’s baking concrete. Songs usually trump real life in Lekman’s light-footed autobiographical blend of humor and melancholy. The self-described “suburban potato-chip boy” of “Waiting for Kirsten,” wherein he stalks actress Kirsten Dunst during her visit to his Gothenburg hometown, sounded plenty blue during “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name” from his forthcoming I Know What Love Isn’t (Secretly Canadian). Lekman sings the praises of a well-adjusted, practical sort of marriage—one for citizenship—in his new album’s title track. Later there was the Fassbinder-ian dread of “A Postcard to Nina,” in which a gay friend tries to pass him off as her fiancée during a cringingly uncomfortable dinner with Dad.
Later in his set, he cranked up some canned horns and Enoch Light samples, spread his arms like wings, and cruised about the stage in pop bliss. Was he aware of how neatly this would foreshadow Of Montreal’s own winged entities? Probably not.
One might have suspected that Of Montreal’s mid-set cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” was played in honor of Lekman’s border issues (or at least Barack Obama’s DREAM Act end run) if the band hadn’t been doing it for a while already. (I’d have preferred OM’s version of Melanie’s “What Have They Done to My Song, Ma?”) But little in the band’s music or performance is that straightforward. Sporting a couple of classic Seinfeld puffy shirts, Kevin Barnes delivered his verbally dense neo-Victorian confessionals in a voice punctuated by dramatic and effective screams, whoops, yelps, and shouts of exultation. His eight-piece band couched decadent scenes of amorous morbidity in noise-splattered funk-rock.
The kids aren’t alright, but that’s OK in the stanzas of OM’s bracingly experimental new Paralytic Stalks (Polyvinyl), which was represented by only three songs in a set that drew most heavily from 2008’s fragmented and funky Skeletal Lamping. A velvet goldmine of contradictions, Barnes aborted the beginning of “And I’ve Seen a Bloody Shadow,” with its fractured imagery that includes a digital wolf that sees through electric eyes, to acknowledge the “beautiful sky outside as the most beautiful city in the world watches us” from across the East River.
Guitarist Bryan Poole stood tall, wide, and flamboyant in the sort of pimp hat and feathered-boa finery that suggested early Roxy Music. A small cast of constantly changing costumed figures, somewhere between aliens and Mexican wrestlers, who occasionally surfed the crowd, echoed Barnes’s lyrical non sequiturs visually. While the 20th-century classical influences of Stalk’s “Exorcism Breeding Knife” never appeared, OM hit a throbbing Ives-Ian fracas of sorts in “The Past Is a Grotesque Animal,” which wailed like a banshee for a quarter-hour. OM encored with a five-song suite that leaned heavily on disco, ending with “Gronlandic Edit” and “all the party people dancing for the indie star.”
Critical bias: Contagious enthusiasm provided by Of Montreal-adoring daughter.
Overheard: A constant mumble of complaining about the line to get into the venue.
Random notebook dump: The Thermals and Beach Fossils also performed, but not for us.
Suffer for Fashion
The Party’s Crashing Us
Forecast Fascist Future
We Will Commit Wolf Murder
She’s a Rejecter
Nonpareil of Favor
You Do Mutilate?
And I’ve Seen a Bloody Shadow
St. Exquisite’s Confessions
Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse
The Past Is a Grotesque Animal
Women’s Studies Victims