Editor’s Note: The following is a review of an Of Montreal concert performed Tuesday night in Ithaca.
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ITHACA, N.Y. — Maybe the wild show performed by the band Of Montreal at The Haunt in Ithaca Tuesday night meant nothing.
Maybe the band’s on-stage stream of subversive sexual gestures, surreal political symbols and recurring loops of infinitely complex patterns existed solely to excite a desensitized and overstimulated group of college-aged kids.
Maybe the night’s hype-man — dressed in a full-body brown skin suit that revealed the outlines of his genitalia — was being flip when he asked the crowd to react to the performance like the fish of the adjacent Cayuga Lake Inlet. Maybe it was merely a nice warm-up bit for him to yell that the fish, “goddamit, they’re free; they swim; they eat what they want to eat; they get eaten, and it doesn’t (expletive) matter because they’re fish. I want us to be like that … I want us to live free.”
Maybe there was nothing particularly interesting or impactful in the vague aphorisms thrown up at the screen — “Nothing Is Normal” — or in the Mondrian-esque swirls sometimes interspersed with cut-out copies of The New York Times, Orwellian images of American conglomerates, and, at one point, Donald Trump’s head.
Maybe there wasn’t a point to having a man wearing a President Abraham Lincoln mask, but wearing the suit of the Flash, walk on stage during one song to confront two fighting men dressed equally bizarrely: in full-bodied American flags, but wearing massive fake boobs with dog-costumes for heads. (See image here.) Maybe it was just a silly gag — a cheap, randy joke — to have the two men pull out their giant, fake bean bag breasts and lasciviously caress them before the screaming crowd. And maybe it was even cheaper for the Lincoln impersonator to then stick his head on and lick the fake boobs of the dog-masked creatures — at this point no longer clad in the flags — as if the Great Emancipator was really the Great Sexual Liberator of Repressive American Sexual Expectations as well.
Maybe this insane, surreal scene — like many repeated throughout the night — was simply that and no more. And maybe Of Montreal, like Ken Kesey’s “Merry Pranksters” decades ago, is more interested in stunts that dazzle and delight than in those that enlighten and edify.
And maybe, even if there really was a deeper cultural message to Of Montreal, it’s an irrelevant one for a generation whose defining trait is crass materialism. Maybe it doesn’t matter that a few dozen young Ithacans roared with the seeming force of a stadium and — if just for one night — appeared to forget that sexual/cultural/political idealism is supposed to be a relic of a a bygone historical era.
Maybe it’s ultimately pointless for this observer to even mull such inevitably ineffable questions, to devote scarce time to wondering if what he saw tonight was worth scrutiny and thought — or whether I should simply be grateful for the lightning bolt of energy that suddenly and unexpectedly coursed through an otherwise forgetful Tuesday night in mid-September.
Maybe, in fact, nothing about Of Montreal’s show at The Haunt mattered at all. Maybe.
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