Friday, June 26, 2009

2009-02-20 - The Honolulu Star

'Exponentially bigger & ridiculous now'

Of Montreal brings its wild show to town for one night at The Loft

By Gary C.W. Chun

It's been a little more than three years since the indie rock fave band, of Montreal, last graced our island shores. The group returns downtown this weekend as the critically acclaimed brainchild of leader Kevin Barnes, who takes his inspiration from the likes of David Bowie and Prince in presenting lavish visuals alongside the music.

Where: The Loft Gallery and Lounge, 115 Hotel St.

When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $20


The relatively small confines of the Loft Gallery and Lounge should be bursting at the seams trying to contain the concert. Even a scaled-down version of the group's theatrical spectacle will be extravagant; it's been in full bloom since Barnes revealed his polysexual alter ego Georgie Fruit on 2007's "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?"

For an audio cue of what will probably transpire there, check out the last three songs on of Montreal's latest CD, "Skeletal Lampings." From the hedonism and sexual ambiguity of "Beware Our Nubile Miscreants," to the psychedelia of "MIngusings" and the heady brew of Technicolor disco-pop and avant tribal-beat contained in "Id Engager," it should make for an evening of free-wheeling gender play.

According to longtime band member Jamey Huggins, Hawaii is the kick-off point for the band's latest tour, which heads out to Australia next.

"Our shows have always been extravagant, except that they're exponentially bigger and ridiculous now," he said via phone last Friday while driving from Atlanta to the band's headquarters in Athens, Ga. "The biggest difference is the amount of personnel that comes out on tour. For the first nine years or so, we had (six to nine people) ... and then on our most recent tour we took as many as 19.

"On this tour, we're only going to be eight, very minimum, but we'll still do everything we can to put on a visual performance. We'll be bringing video, costumes and one performance artist-slash-actor-slash dancer," who Huggins identified as Barnes' brother and creative partner David.

"But for me, it's all about the music -- everything else is just the icing on the cake. It'll be a trade-off in the sense that the audience in Hawaii won't see the spectacle that we've staged in three- to four-thousand seat venues in New York or Los Angeles," he said.

"The difference with the smaller show is the intimacy. It'll be more about the music and the people in the room. We'll be practically be playing right next to you, so it'll be less of a circus and more of a personal experience."

Along with keyboardist Dottie Alexander, the multi-instrumental Huggins has been with of Montreal since its inception 11 years ago.

"The band is definitely Kevin's vision," Huggins said. "We've gone from a totally collaborative band to becoming mainly a live performance band, because about halfway through the band's existence, Kevin started recording just about everything himself for the albums. When computers and drum machines became available at his disposal, it was more fun for Kevin to do it pretty much himself. He had more success getting his ideas down, instead of relying on having to work with everyone's schedules.

"The problem is, since his music has so many ideas, it takes, like, 15 people to realize it live," he said.

While some fans think that of Montreal is all Kevin Barnes, Huggins said that's a misconception. "We all do everything. Where Kevin does have total control of the albums, he has little control of the live show. It's very much an open democracy between the band members, David and Kevin's wife, Nina. All of our ideas get thrown together in a pot, so to speak, and we'll use those that can both work financially and fit on stage."

Basically, Huggins admitted, "it's hard to describe where this is all coming from. The creative process in this band is so natural, it's difficult to describe such a surreal, visual thing that's changing all the time. Every leg of our tours have been different, so you won't see Kevin hanging himself on stage, or a live stallion on stage, or the giant rotating room with video screens attached. We did each of those thing for a month's time, and then dropped them."

Huggins is looking forward to some down time from the band to continue to pursue his own solo project as his alter ego, indie rocker James Husband. As Husband, he last released 2005's "Now Listen."

"After many years and long-awaited frustration, I'm definitely going to be doing a major tour," he said. "I've made homemade CDs available at our shows and I'm just waiting for a window in the of Montreal schedule to open up. I'm in the process of finishing the artwork for the new album, and it'll be the real deal."

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