I saw the best band on Friday night. We travelled down to Columbia to see Of Montreal. I don't know how to describe the band's sound. Obviously the leader of the band, Kevin Barnes, has listened to oodles and oodles of David Bowie during his life. So have I so that's cool. They seem to be able to waver back and forth between synthy pop and straight ahead rock and roll. Just know that their new album Hiss Fauna, Are You the Destroyer is one of catchiest albums this side of the Shins and Decemberists that I've heard in the last year.
Barnes may also be the most flamboyant straight person alive. When he came out onstage in panties with a pearl necklace hanging between his legs and a face full of makeup I assumed he didn't like girls. Maybe I'm just prejudiced but I was a little surprised when I was told by Beth Y. that he's a straight guy.
The venue we saw the band at is called Headliners. For those of you that have never been there before, the club is inside an arcade on the 700 block of Gervais St. in downtown Columbia. I knew it was next to a dance club but I was unaware that Headliners is inside an arcade without any sign indicating that the club is inside this arcade. I don't know if we ever would have found the place if it hadn't been for these two stoners we asked directions of. They were going there and invited us to follow them. Is calling then stoners rude? Would it have been better if I had said they reeked of marijuana?
I liked how Headliners was set up. The interior is rectangular in shape with the narrow portion taking up the space between the back of the club and the stage. It's two stories high with nice views of the show available from a balcony. It would be nice if more clubs gave short people places to see the show. It reminded of me of the Visulite in Charlotte. Since the Visulite is an old theater it has a sloping floor and strategically placed tables that allow short people and those that prefer to sit good views of a show.
Headliners even had air conditioning. Sometimes air conditioning is considered unnecessary in a rock club (hey there, Ziggy's and Cat's Cradle). Headliners doesn't consider A/C unnecessary although they do seem to view it as a luxury. It only came on right when I started to think it was getting uncomfortably warm. I guess they know the fat old guy threshold and were able to balance the clubs temperature right around that point all night.
We were both disappointed in the quality of the sound at the club. There wasn't much low end (couldn't really hear the bass guitar at all) and the sound was not loud enough for the room. As energetic as the band was I really thought the lack of response from those of us not at the front was due to the inferior sound. I hope to see them one day at a club with a sound system of higher quality. I don't think I will bother to go see a band at Headliners again. If I am going to drive that far for a band I don't want to have to hear that band over a subpar sound system. I was confused by that. The club nailed it on other factors: three bars, big bathrooms and affordable drinks but they didn't have enough speakers to fill the room with sound. Weird.
The show itself was stellar. The setlist was heavy on the new album and that worked for me because the only Of Montreal music I have heard is the new album. They pulled off every song well and I liked how the drummer payed keyboards and drums when necessary and the other keyboardist played guitar on a couple of songs. One time the drummer was playing guitar and stopped for a moment, moseyed over to his drum kit and knocked out a beat for about two seconds and then went back to playing guitar. He also spent a lot time flirting with the keyboardist, which was cute.
They ended the evening with a three song encore. Those three songs were Bowie's Starman, Hang onto Yourself and Suffragette City. Every rock concert should end with Suffragette City. I always feel bad when I can say that three cover songs were the highlight of a concert but I've never seen another singer live that can pull of David Bowie songs like Kevin Barnes. Hearing him sing Bowie is like hearing Antiseen play a Ramones song. As Beth said, "He can go ahead and sing Bowie songs all night." If he had extended that Bowie encore for two more hours we would have stayed for it.
I am impressed with any band that can be interesting when they sound like they are playing on a stereo in the next room. I really hope they come to Charlotte next time because I would love to see them and not have to drive a couple of hours in order to do so. I did find some real nice pictures of a show that took place about two weeks before the show I saw. You can view them here