I’ve seen many shows featuring many bands in my lifetime, and while typically try to branch out as much as I can and see bands I haven’t seen before, there are a few acts whose performances I never grow tired of attending. Of Montreal is, without a doubt, one of those bands. So when my good friend Rachelq informed me that they would be returning to Portland this March, I eagerly prepared to cover the show for KPSU’s website. When March 23rd finally arrived, Rachelq drove with her two friends from Idaho to meet me at McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom, and as the door opened the four of us excitedly ascended the steps to the large room upstairs.

The houselights dimmed and the spotlights illuminated the stage as a slender, medium-built Asian man with an 80s-band haircut stepped onto the stage amid excited applause. This man is Kishi Bashi, the opening performer in last Friday night’s excellent three-act line-up. Armed with only a violin, a loop/drum machine, and his voice, he proceeded to treat the crowd with several inventive and beautiful cuts from his first full-length album, 151a. Displaying virtuosity on the violin, an impressive vocal range, and beat-boxing chops, he wowed the audience with his psychedelic baroque hip-hop style. He produced gorgeous vocal melodies, lushly layered harmonies, and violin shredfests, smiling from start to finish and repeatedly telling the audience he was “so happy to be here.” The feeling was clearly mutual.

Next, Deerhoof would take the stage with their basic rock n’ roll line-up of two guitars, bass, and drums and proceed to play very un-basic rock n’ roll. Upon examining their equipment before they started, I noticed there was only one microphone, preparing me for a band that probably didn’t put much emphasis on harmonies. Moments later the microphone was approached by the most atypical bandleader I’ve ever seen: a petite Asian woman wielding a bass that was almost as tall as she was. Deerhoof proceeded to produce some of the loudest, fastest, hardest-hitting music I have ever heard, while their quirky approach of complex compositions that jumped around in style, tempo, and dynamics kept the noobs in the audience (such as myself) guessing. A machine gun of bass and drums (the latter produced by a kit that included only bass drum, snare drum, and crash cymbal) pumped the audience full of rock n’ roll led, while frontwoman Satomi Matsuzaki chimed in vocally with cute, high-pitched rhythmic chirps and the two guitarists played distorted atonal riffs and dissonant licks. After 30-45 minutes of this high-energy rock, the audience was pumped up and ready for the theatric spectacle of of Montreal’s live set.

Taking the stage in their usual bright, extravagant get-ups, of Montreal opened their set in the same way they open their latest album, Paralytic Stalks: with the hauntingly psychedelic “Gelid Ascent.” This dark, echoey soundscape set the surrealistic mood for of Montreal’s most recent compositions, of which they played several. The majority of their set was made up of cuts from their most recent albums, Paralytic Stalks, False Priest, and Skeletal Lamping, but they also included a few tunes from my favorite album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, which I was happy to hear. Displaying versatility in musical styles and an innovative harmonic and melodic ear, frontman Kevin Barnes led the ensemble through upbeat dance-rockers (“Nonpareil of Favor”, “Suffer for Fashion”), dark psych-pop (“Spiteful Intervention”), and experimental guitar jams (“She’s a Rejecter”). All the while, they lived up to their usual reputation of elaborate stage antics and visuals, although it should be noted that, of the three times I’ve seen them live, this was their least theatrical performance. At their best, the visuals included few actors, simple costumes and little choreography; Barnes was more focused on playing his instruments than acting and dancing. The set, however, was nonetheless enjoyable. My personal highlight arrived when, near the end of their set, they launched into the doom-disco epic “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” a Hissing Fauna track which I’ve been waiting to hear live for a long time. Kicking it off at a slightly faster speed than the recording, they charged through its 10+ minutes with impeccable precision and high energy, enticing every fan in the audience to sing and dance along.

Of Montreal are, without a doubt, one of my favorite bands to see live. They never disappoint and always put on a great show, from their musical execution to their stage production to the fun and interesting acts they choose to open for them. The whole experience was enjoyable, and successfully upheld of Montreal as a live act that, from this KPSU DJ, comes highly recommended!

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