Carrboro is a strange city. The city’s vicinity to the fist bumping bro-culture that is UNC-Chapel Hill’s student life clashes with the liberal academics that work and go to that institution. This clash creates a strange vibe as far as the social scene goes with independent record stores right across from sports bars so generic in nature that they are literally called, “Sports Bar.”
A cornerstone of Carrboro’s mixed scene is without a doubt Cat’s Cradle. The small venue’s two stages have seen everyone from classic alternative staples to up and coming indie acts that are just one hit song away from selling out stadiums. The two stages that make the Cat’s Cradle draw some hot acts that make it well worth the 50-minute drive from Greensboro and jostle past a few frat boys who have no clue who the act is to see your favorite bands in an intimate venue.
One band that drew a packed crowd to the Cat’s Cradle this past Friday night was of Montreal with their opener Mega Bog.
Since 1997, of Montreal has released 15 studio albums with their most recent album, “White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood,” dropping earlier this month. The band is led by Kevin Barnes and is a part of the Elephant 6 Collective which includes bands from the late ‘90s such as Neutral Milk Hotel, The Olivia Tremor Control and The Apples in Stereo.
To those who only casually follow the band by listening to new releases but never attending shows, the first of Montreal show you attend will be an unexpected experience for you. Intense psychedelic visuals being projected onto the stage, wildly costumed background dancers, and Kevin Barnes striking features accentuated by colorful drag, are all elements to be expected from an of Montreal performance.
New fans and first-time viewers, Edwin and Thomas, described their first experience seeing them live with enthusiasm. “The light show and everything was great, the people in the costumes who came out and danced was all really cool,” they said.
Edwin and Thomas’s energetic reaction to of Montreal’s performance was without a doubt most of the audience’s take away from the show. This show started with Seattle-based opener Mega Bog delivering a solid opening act that effectively energized the crowd.
When of Montreal first began to trickle on stage, Kevin Barnes was nowhere to be seen. Yet, as the band began an animated overture, a large papier mâché skull walked onstage to the roaring approval of the audience. At last, Kevin came out in a brightly colored outfit and blonde wig to begin the concert with their hit song “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games.” The concert continued in this pattern of bizarre costuming as Chinese dragons, gimp suits, a dominatrix devil, alien owls and more came out to dance to the music.
The show was enthralling, with a lively audience that broke into dancing during nearly every song. The audience itself was an interesting mix of fans who had been following them since the ‘90s and were now in their late forties and young teenagers who are still flocking to of Montreal’s music as a source of strength and inspiration for their own self-expression.
“It’s actually amazing, but my retired parents, of all people, got me into the band and my folks have seen them even in Germany,” said Hilary Little, a fan who has seen the band four times now.
When asked what they thought of this performance in relation to others they have seen, interviewed audience members all responded positively.
“I thought it was definitely one of the better shows I’ve been to,” Laura M. said. “Every time I see them, it’s something new and great and I always love it.”
When asked how many shows they had seen of theirs, they responded with 28 times since 2008.
“They were pretty great,” Little said. “I haven’t seen them in a while and the visual effects and the amount of auditory space, if you will, that they are able to fill with just five members of the band is pretty impressive.”
Being a band with such an immersive live performance style, the question of whether it is the performances or the music that draws people in is a prevalent one.
“I think the stage performance is a large part of it. I think that when you go to see a live show the visuals really pull you into it and make the entire experience very immersive,” said Savannah Foran, who has seen the band live four times. “They also have people dressed up and confetti and feathers raining down from the ceiling, it’s incredible.”
of Montreal is continuing its tour across America and repeat fans can expect what they have always received from their live shows – a quirky performance accompanied by incredible music that will be etched in your memory for years to come.