Posts tagged ‘Of Montreal’

4/20/09: The Hartford Jazz Orchestra @ Arch Street Tavern (88/100)

April 21st, 2009

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This show is living proof that you can find live music almost anywhere, any day of the week. I was in Connecticut for work. And since I was staying over night, that meant I needed to find a band to see. Not super easy on a Monday night when I’m staying in Farmington, CT. Lucky for me, Hartford is a short 20 minute drive. Not so lucky for me, most of the live music venues in and around Hartford aren’t booking bands on Monday nights. Shit.

So I do some more poking around and…eureka! I strike gold! Ok, not gold. But I had a couple choices: A horn recital at the University of Hartford, or the Hartford Jazz Orchestra at Arch Street Tavern.

After some major soul searching, I opted for the Hartford Jazz Orchestra. Ok, there wasn’t any soul searching at all. I just had to work up until 8pm, and would’ve missed the horn recital. Plus, the other one is at a bar/grill, so there will be food. But more on that later.

My co-workers headed off to dinner at Outback (damn Of Montreal song…it’s back in my head!) and planned on meeting me at Arch Street Tavern for music. I grabbed a cab around 8:30pm in the pouring rain, to a sports bar/grill in downtown Hartford on a Monday night, and walked into a 16-piece big band orchestra. What the what?

Right when I opened the door, I was hit in the face with four trumpets, five saxes, four trombones, drums, stand up pass and piano. Holy shit! They are serious about their big band jazz at the Arch Street Tavern, on a Monday night. Amazing.

When I got out of car, I saw a text from my friend Josh, saying that everyone’s heading back to the hotel after Outback – some peeps had work to do. Oh well. This should be a quick show anyhow. Then, just as I grab a seat, order a drink and pull out my notebook…surprise! All my coworkers walk up to the table. Good one guys, you got me.

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We takeover the table and settle in to enjoy the biggest band I’ve seen yet (in numbers). Everyone’s pretty excited to have surprised me, and to be a part of day 88. And I was excited that they did. For most, it’s their first show. At the table was: Gary, Josh, Scott, Kelly, Alison, Vickie and Casey. Scott had been to shows 1 and 50, and Josh shows 50, 61 and 83.

“Welcome to my life,” I said. And then the Hartford Jazz Orchestra busted into song. Each one, great. Some big, swing numbers. Some quieter ballads. But nothing too quiet, that’s for sure. These guys were loud as hell.Well balanced from where we were sitting, but a trip to the bathroom revealed how utterly intense that band was at full blast.

But I loved it. I mean, how many times do you sit and eat a chicken quesadilla, with a baseball game on a TV in front of you, the NBA finals to your right, and the NHL playoffs behind you? With a crowd that’s primarily 70+ in downtown Hartford? Fucking classic.

But wasn’t even the best part. The band was. What a cast of characters. You had the 70-something year old conductor/piano player who just reeks of character and charisma – and probably mothballs – paired with younger guys in sleeveless vests and Red Sox hats. How the hell these guys found each other, and what they talk about apart from the music is beyond me. But good for them.

And good for me – for us – for making it out in the pouring rain, to take in what has been one of the most random, bizarre, but pleasantly surprising nights of music so far. All while Pierce hit a shot at the buzzer to knot up their series with Chicago 1-1 – that’s how they do it in Hartford.

4/15/09: Of Montreal @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (83/100)

April 16th, 2009

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This Outback commercial ruined Of Montreal for me for a couple years, not gonna lie. I saw it as the ultimate sell out. A band I always knew as doing their own thing, giving in to a fake Australian restaurant chain. It almost made want to boycott the Blooming Onion forever – almost. Those colossal calorie kingdoms are just too good to turn my back on for an eternity. Delicious sons of bitches…

But time heals all wounds I guess, because I’m over it. So they sold out. So what. So did Bob Dylan, and Wilco, and just about every other band or musician I admire. But the artists didn’t change. They didn’t start writing songs so they could get them into commercials. In fact, in the Of Montreal’s case, quite the opposite. Their music is even more fucked up and abstract now.

So I walked into tonight’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg waving a white flag, and anxious for a the live freak show that is Of Montreal. And what a freak show it is. Last time I saw them was at Bowery several years ago. At that show, lead singer Kevin Barnes walked on stage in a full white wedding dress. My friend Lauren told me the first time she saw them he entered the stage on a white horse. So long as he didn’t walk out dressed as a Blooming Onion (a kangaroo would’ve been ok), it should be a good show.

I went to the show with my friend Josh, co-worker Olivia and her friends Dana and Bronwen. And we all waited anxiously to see what tricks Kevin and the band had up their sleeves. The crowd was get anxious themselves, chanting for the band to get this whacked out party started. But nothing as crazy happened. Instead, tonight’s madness came from the visuals playing on huge screens behind them, and the cast of actors dressed as different animals, religious figures, ninjas, etc that came out on the stage and acted out…um…skits? Not really. That would be giving them too much credit for having a script or concept. I turned to my friend Josh at one point and said, “I don’t get it.” And he replied, “I don’t think there’s anything to get.” Good point.

It didn’t matter much to me whether I “got” what was going on. It was fascinating, intriguing, bizarre and really fun to look at. Kevin was dressed in his usual flamboyance, but the guitar player had him beat tonight with feathers sprouting off him like a peacock. Like this:

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Simply put, an Of Montreal show is unlike any other show you’ll see. I saw a couple security guys look at each other at one point, with looks of utter confusion on their faces. Like, “How the? What the? Who the?” But that’s just it. You should ask these questions, or at least you be thinking them, because that’s the point. They are a freak show, and that’s what makes them great.

That’s not to detract from the music, which I have to admit lost me a bit during my “Of Montreal is on my shit list” period. But they’re still a great band. Original to the core. It’s like seeing Bowie, Prince, Meatloaf, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Rocky Horror Picture show on acid. I’ve never taken acid (I promise, Mom), but I imagine this is what it would be like. Or what the flashbacks would be like. Or something. I mean, I’ve had fucked up, bizarre dreams that make more sense than what I was looking at.

There were Catholic cardinals dressed in red robes with actual cardinal beaks. A woman walking around on all fours with a 3-year old girl riding on her. Ninjas with glittered red faces. Dudes dressed like Buddha. Guys in weird gold masks. People dressed like pigs, and guy in a white suit and tiger mask…and so on.

But that’s the beauty of Of Montreal. I couldn’t see them every day. I couldn’t see them anytime. But I am glad I saw them during this 100 days, if no other reason than to be the wild card, fucked up, weirdest freak show of all the shows.

Of Montreal. That title most certainly belongs to you. You earned it

3/28/09: Animal Kingdom & Dutch Uncles @ Notting Hill Arts Club, London (65/100)

March 29th, 2009

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Nothing wrong with a little free, Saturday afternoon indie rock at the Notting Hill Arts Club. By the name you might think this would be fancy club, but it’s not. It’s a dark and dingy, underground indie rock club with rundown bar, tables and booths, £5 Tropical Martinis and £ 2.3 house/mystery beers. Mystery meaning you’ll get something you’ve never heard of, and aren’t sure what that is until you get it. The stage is tiny, and has 60s era PA speakers hang in front, blocking the view of half the band. NHAC is DIY in the UK. My kind of place.

Every Saturday is a free Rough Trade show at NHAC, featuring rising local/UK bands. This week it was called the Clash Saturday Social, and co-hosted by Clash Magazine. We could only stay for the first two of three bands: Animal Kingdom, Dutch Uncles and It Hugs Back. Neither all that impressive, to be honest.

Animal Kingdom was a bit of a generic, UK-sounded band, ala Coldplay or U2 – but without the songwriting (and I hate Coldplay). They were all reverb and delay, keys and brooding vocals. And they continued what is becoming an indie rock cliché (I think): multiple members playing multiple instruments, in this case guitar, keys and glockenspiel.

I’m not trying to be critical just to be critical, Animal Kingdom wasn’t the worst band I’ve ever seen. But truthfully, the most impressive thing they did was getting all five of them on that tiny little stage. Plus, they had an animal named band. Not only that, they tried to own the entire kingdom of animal band names.

After they finished, the room cleared out as they broke down their gear. Sunshine finished her Tropical Martini, which she pretended to like, but tasted pretty much like pineapple juice. I grabbed another mysetery beer which didn’t taste like much of anything.

As I stood there, I noticed that in this young crowd, out of roughly 50 people, there were exactly four dudes with beards (including me). That’s 8% of the crowd – a percentage that would be unheard of back home. I guess NYC music fans are the only ones still hanging onto this trend. Again, yours truly included.

Then Dutch Uncles was on stage and ready to go. The first, most noticeable thing is their “style.” A bit pretentious, and obvious attempt at irony. The eccentric lead singer in his shirt that looks like a Bill Cosby sweater, but it’s a shirt, and it’s silk. The guitar player in his super tight oxford shirt and slacks. Very anti-rock ‘n roll.

They were also anti-genre, too apparently. Rather than try and sound like other bands from Manchester like The Fall or The Smiths or Joy Division – they just decided to sound like all of them, all at the same time. That’s the biggest knock on these guys: lack of focus. They could’ve easily been a dance rock band if they wanted to (ala Franz Ferdinand) – but would need better songs. Or a punk rock band, ala MC5, if they’d just decided to. Instead they want to do everything, all at once. Not realizing where their good bits are and throwing out the bad. Just don’t be fooled by the single “Steady Cam” on their myspace page.

And if you find yourself at the Notting Hill Arts Club, don’t be fooled by the tropical martini, either. Go for the mystery beer, instead.