Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2003-01-01 - Flagpole

Get Your Krush On With Of Montreal

Of Montreal bassist Derek Almstead eyes me suspiciously. "Why are you interviewing us? You don't even like our band," he says.
After I assure him that this isn't an across the board sentiment, he loosens up. And after walking through the pouring rain to our selected conversation spot where we meet the rest of the band, we are both too soaked to think of anything but the positive.

And Of Montreal has plenty of positivity around it. The latest album, Aldhil's Arboretum, has garnered wonderful reviews nationwide, and the band - Almstead, Dottie Alexander and Jamey Huggins - is set to embark on its very first European tour in January.

"Me, Jamey and Kevin [Barnes] just got back from Europe touring with Great Lakes, and Derek just got back from a U.S. tour with Circulatory System," Alexander discloses. These tours, by the way, occurred immediately after Of Montreal had done an extensive U.S. tour, so the band is understandably a bit frazzled, but still incredibly focused.

On New Year's Eve, the 40 Watt will host another night of cover songs from Of Montreal that should be just as much fun as the band's set during Team Clermont's Blue Ribbon Ball earlier this year. However, while the Blue Ribbon Ball was devoted exclusively to songs from the 1980s, the New Year's Eve performance will include songs from several decades. But the question begs to be asked: why would one of Athens' most prolific and well-tooled bands turn to playing huge shows filled with other performers' songs? Why would they go the route of lesser bands who need to play covers just to fill a setlist?

Simply put, the band says, it's fun. And by learning a veritable smorgasbord of hits, they hope to tap into that pool of never-ending cash (something that, realistically, can mean the difference between getting a record out and being a frustrated, never-heard prodigy) that cover bands can dip into: fraternity parties.

Huggins puts it this way, "We definitely want to get in on the band-for-hire party scene." Considering that Athens bands as divergent as Dreams So Real, Chickasaw Mudd Puppies and Five-Eight have all done this, it's safe to say Of Montreal is in good company.

While the band is cagey when asked which songs would be included, they do drop some clues as to what folks can expect. Almstead says, "We're trying not to be too obscure. It'll be songs that people like." Alexander chimes in, "We promised the 40 Watt bartenders that we would play very specific songs for them."

Perhaps Huggins is the most thoughtful when it comes to the whole "cover show" idea. He explains, "I think it makes us individually better musicians and better as a band to have to learn a whole lot of different styles [of music]." Even though the folks in Of Montreal are currently up to their ears in activity and pressed for rehearsal time, they will most likely pull this off without missing a beat. After all, the first covers show was thrown together with less than 24 hours of preparation, and the band performed flawlessly to a packed house.

For the late-night revelers, Athens prankster DJs the Krush Girls will be mixing it up. For those who have never seen or danced the night away to these guys let me warn you: the term "DJ" is a bit of an exaggeration. Sure they play records, but this is not a hip hop carnival of skills. It's more like a huge slumber party with all your friends. Group founder Chris Bilheimer claims, "It's totally just for fun. As far as the art of DJ-ing goes, I don't even consider us in that category. We know absolutely nothing about the art of mixing records. I hope we're not insulting." Bilheimer also lets Flagpole in on a secret of sorts by revealing that Strong Bad, the belligerent cartoon character from the hilarious homestarrunner.com, will be acting as MC for the night. How a cartoon will perform is anyone's guess, but the Krush Girls never disappoint.

While some listeners might tire of hearing some of the same songs during each Krush Girls set, Bilheimer pretty much says it's out of his hands. "For some reason people always want to hear the same stuff. But that's cool. The whole idea is for people to have fun."

For those who have never ventured out to the 40-Watt for New Year's Eve, be advised this isn't your normal party. Be prepared for unrelenting revelry, goodwill and just plain fun. Even for those flying solo that night, Of Montreal and the Krush Girls will make you feel right at home.

Gordon Lamb

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