When lead singer Kevin Barnes took the stage in a wedding dress Thursday night at the Blind Pig, the sold-out crowd knew it was in for more than just a concert. “Ann Arbor, we love you. Will you marry us?” he asked. The answer, of course, was a resounding yes, and for the rest of the evening, the crowd danced in celebration of the group’s peculiar combination of psych-rock and dance-pop.
Of Montreal, long viewed as an underachiever out of a scene – Elephant 6 collective — that produced indie heavyweights like Apples in Stereo, Beulah, Olivia Tremor Control and, of course, Neutral Milk Hotel, have distanced themselves from the aesthetic of their musical big brothers. Thursday, they mostly drew from their latest two albums, Satanic Panic in the Attic, and The Sunlandic Twins, while debuting songs from their upcoming album, tentatively titled Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer. Unlike their earlier work, Of Montreal has recently taken the band in a dancier, more disco-oriented direction with a solid foundation and prominent synthesizers.
The new songs, like the breakup epic “Voltaic Crusher,” sounded great alongside previous favorites like “Wraith Pinned to the Mist” and “I Was Never Young.” But with every song similar in volume and tempo, the show would have no doubt lost steam without the stage presence of Barnes and the musicality of the men he had to back him.
Barnes, a onetime resident of Grosse Pointe Park, humored the crowd between songs, telling stories between all four of his wardrobe changes. The rest of the band ably supported him without overcomplicating what was essentially catchy dance music. Drummer James Huggins was especially effective, keeping excellent time throughout the hourlong performance. Most importantly, Of Montreal were able to get people moving; even the Blind Pig staff, usually stoic, were dancing behind the bar.
One particularly enthusiastic concert attendee was overheard telling a friend they’d waited in line outside since 7:15 p.m. in order to get in first, indicative of the kind of response Of Montreal typically garners. The Pig, poorly ventilated and absolutely packed with more than 400 patrons, quickly became very hot once the crowd got worked up. During the middle of the set, when everyone was nice and sweaty, Barnes asked, “Are we going to have sex tonight?” The answer again was of course, yes. Not only was the crowd privy to a solid performance from a decent band, but everyone was probably going to get laid too.