Of Montreal reimagined in goofy skits

By Georgi Johnston

At Schuba’s last Friday, those expecting a normal rock show were in for some serious disappointment when A Pollinaire Rave took the stage, but what do you expect from a group with a name like that? As the flyer claims, A Pollinaire Rave truly is “Music as Art.” Before the show began I had the pleasure of interviewing the mastermind of this project, Kevin Barnes. Normally, Kevin is the lead singer of the Atlanta indie pop group Of Montreal. Of Montreal has been pleasing listeners since 1997 with its playfully theatrical music. A Pollinaire Rave could easily be seen as an extension of the theatrical aspects already present in Of Montreal.

A Pollinaire Rave is comprised of three members (Kevin Barnes, his artist brother, David, and his lovely girlfriend, Nina), a series of props, and a Discman containing demo versions of tracks from the forthcoming Of Montreal album. Using a Greek tragedy written by David as the jumping-off point, Kevin set out to create the unique combination of music and theater that is now A Pollinaire Rave. Their performance was a series of skits and commercials broken up by musical numbers.

Despite my lengthy talk with Kevin before the show began, I remained unsure about what to expect. Although slightly skeptical, I prepared myself to be entertained by A Pollinaire Rave. After moving all of their props and costumes onto the stage, the lights dimmed and the performance began. First, David came out on stage alone, shirtless, wearing pants, handcuffs, and a crown of laurels. Then out came Zeus, disguised as a lion, and Pandora (Kevin and Nina, respectively). Normally, Greek tragedies are intensely serious, but not this one. I laughed all the way through and resisted the intense urge to dance along during some of the songs. Because there was no backing band, the entire musical accompaniment came from a Discman placed on a chair. Each of the three members sang at least one song (with Kevin singing and dancing to two). The entire performance from beginning to end was enjoyable and engaging, in true Of Montreal style!

Of Montreal has a reputation for being a whimsical band in virtue of their albums containing a combination of excellent pop songs and short stories. The band has a recognizable sound because of Kevin’s unique voice and fanciful lyrics. Their most recent release, Aldhil’s Arboretum, differed slightly from previous releases by being a straightforward rock album. It contains slightly more serious lyrics and no short stories or poems. Upon first listening to it I wondered what had happened to the creative Of Montreal I knew and loved. Kevin explained that the band had been concerned that their music was not taken seriously enough because of their previous albums’ childish aspects. They therefore decided to create a clear-cut rock album. This experiment ended with interesting results: the latest album sold the same number of copies as all of the previous, more creative albums. Therefore, the next album will be a return to the theatrical musical adventures of previous albums. That is where A Pollinaire Rave fits in. It is a more extreme version of the creative story-telling aspects of Of Montreal. The three members are all excellently entertaining actors, as well as great singers. Kevin’s dancing truly was the icing on the cake–especially while wearing the skintight skeleton costume. Look for a new album sometime this year and an appearance by the band at Schuba’s on April 10.