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Photos: of Montreal’s exotic, erotic ball at Hi-Fi Music Hall

Good news: the Soviet Union and the United States have made up. They also made out.

All it took was of Montreal’s candy-pop and a little help from LGBT rights.

Of Montreal’s Friday night show at the Hi-Fi Music Hall was a well-orchestrated theatrical performance that regularly featured the band’s stagehands dressed in masks and skin-tight, nylon bodysuits. The night’s nuclear moment featured two masked men, each wearing a different flag as a cape: one sporting the United States’ red-white-and-blue and the other wearing the Soviet Union’s hammer-and-sickle flag. A comical, choreographed brawl ensued between the two before another person dressed in a rainbow-flag bodysuit intervened. Naturally, this led to the American and the Commie embracing and kissing through their nylon masks.

Only in the alternate reality of an of Montreal show can one believe that the solution to the Cold War was LGBT rights all along.

Beyond the Athens, Georgia-based group’s giddy glam-funk tunes, of Montreal’s performance was attuned with several costume changes, animal masks, skin-tight suits and other buffoonery. Images of water buffalo, muskrats, hairless cats, Calaveras, geometric patterns, polka dots and other incongruous cryptograms were projected onto the stage at a breakneck pace throughout the night.

Before the band’s frontman Kevin Barnes strutted onto the stage Friday night, he was preceded by a towering creature with glowing red eyes and a large knife that it frequently drew as it peered over the crowd; it appeared to be the Abominable Snowman look-a-like, but others believed it to be a large cat. Its physical attributes were just that indecipherable. The evening only made less sense from there.

Shortly thereafter, a stagehand ushered the the creature offstage. Unfazed, a stoic, glamorous Barnes paraded forward. He stood behind a microphone in an orange crop-top and blonde wig, his arms akimbo.

  • The Abominable Snowman precedes of Montreal's Kevin Barnes on Friday, April 14 at HiFi Music Hall. (Hannah Steinkopf-Frank/Emerald).

“Am I on the verge of a really big breakthrough or just another meltdown?” Barnes asks, his voice warbling in the track “gratuitous abysses” from the band’s 2016 record “Innocence Reaches.”

Of Montreal’s musical versatility and Barnes’ emotional vulnerability is laid bare during the show. The evening was ornamented with innumerable blessings, like the ambling bass line of “Gronlandic Edit” sounded like a Donna Summer production; the greatest boogie about manic depression in “Heimsdalgate Like a Promethean Curse”; and the EDM influences and trap beats laid under “a sport and a pastime,” named after the 1967 erotic novel of the same name. Ostentation is part of the band’s DNA. Barnes is the kind of artist who name-checks French writers in 12-minute long tracks (“The Past Is A Grotesque Animal.”)

Meanwhile, stagehands role-played several characters throughout the set. While Barnes sang “Let’s Relate,” a saucy, lustful barnburner, a woman in a black garb and a flog came onstage to pin Barnes down with one of her heels and whip and punish him. Later the backup dancers wore blonde wigs with gorilla masks. And even later still, they’ve changed into dog masks and red cloaks and resembled characters from the orgy in “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Somewhere in the middle of this convoluted production, you come to realize: “Wow, that guy with the Cyndi Lauper get-up can really harmonize with that keyboardist in the suit and cowboy hat.”

An of Montreal show is a visual assault that is excessive on every level. The extravagance does not feel gimmicky nor subtract from the music itself. Rather, to witness the entire gamut of this spectacle is to experience of Montreal in its purest form.

Listen to of Montreal’s “gratuitous abysses” below:

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Emerson Malone

Emerson Malone

Podcast producer with The Daily Emerald and student research fellow with the UO-UNESCO Crossings Institute.