of Montreal and Mega Bog at the The Cedar!Apr 04, 2018
On a snowy Tuesday in April, Mega Bog and of Montreal performed at the Cedar Cultural Center in what I’m sure will mark one of the most memorable shows of 2018. It was a night of transcendence. The 8 inches of snow falling outside was not enough to stop hundreds of fans from coming out to experience a truly empowering night of psychedelic-indie-pop, and the talent did not disappoint. The night got weirder and cooler and crazier as the show went on—the intimate and eccentric set from Mega bog lit the spark for the musical/performance sensation that was of Montreal.
From New York City, Mega Bog totally had a nice psychedelic vibe, but with a very refined and clean sound that I would attribute to the fusion East Coast and Pacific Northwest sound. They played a couple of extremely focused and sentimental songs, but the crowd as there for the bangers, and Mega Bog came through with a few super danceable, bass heavy tunes mixed in for variety. But it is Erin Birgy’s breezy alto chanting voice that really drew me in and took me away with her honest lyricism.
The two pals whom I attended the show with had seen the legendary of Montreal before, but they could say nothing to prepare me for the spectacular performance that I saw tonight. Every member of of Montreal is a multi-instrumentalist, lending more variety to show that was already Smörgåsbord of crazy singing, dancing, costume changes and confetti. Jojo Glidewell on synths was plentiful and punchy; Davey Pierce on the bass keys sounded full and funky; Bennett Dean Lewis on guitar and keys was striking and shimmery; and Clayton Rychlik on drums and sax was simply mesmerizing.
But the sound was only part of the story tonight—a story that begins and ends with Kevin Barnes. I won't spoil all the surprises and theatrics in the show, but they were enthralling and manifold. I was delighted whenever I saw the troupe of dancers sashay on stage. I can’t fathom the amount of skill it takes to hold the attention of an audience when one is being literally upstaged by a giant dancing paper mâché human skull, but thats exactly what Barnes accomplished during “Gronlandic Edit”. He gave me Sally Bowles decadence on “Writing the Circles”, Hillary Duff realness on “Sex Karma”, and 80’s pop ballad aesthetic a la Jane Fonda on “Paranoiac Intervals”. Like a being of infinite wisdom and power from another world, he rose above the fray of devils, monsters, dominatrixes, tigers, dragons crowding the stage at various points during their set, with his vocals shifting modes from operatic, to soothing, to enchanting, to pure pop glamour.
In the past, critics have tried to make sense of Barnes stage presence by thrusting the moniker Georgie Fruit (a middle aged black trans woman who was invoked on the bands 2007 album Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?) on his feminine coded performance, but the notion that Barnes is adopting some alter ego a la Ziggy Stardust is reductive, not to mention very antiquated in 2018. By far the most captivating part of the performance was Barnes’ sex politics and the way he subverted expectations created by dressing in drag. It was an inordinately sexy show. It practically oozed sex, yet at the same time of Montreal grapples with big issues in their music ranging from existentialism to implicit racism. There was just too much there to parse out in a short review, but I will say my standout song was “Plateau Phase/No Careerism No Corruption” off of their new album White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood (an album title that I find titillating as an English language scholar). The chorus rang out with throbbing synths and the unsettling and sensual lyrics, “We can hear the multiverse ceding, We can hear the simulation wheezing, Making party, making party”, drawing off the modern trend of fetishizing multiverse theory, simulated reality theory, and plain ol’ existentialism as a way to deal with the anxieties of modern life. It was pretty deep, but that did not stop anyone in the crowd from getting down with they simulated selves.
Like I said: it was a night of transcendence.
Photos by Darby Ottoson