San Francisco Bathhouse
February 27 | Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

WHEN THE MEDIA the world over is running hence, proclaiming and crying about the streets over economic doomsday, it’s good to see that the excesses of music at its finest haven’t been killed off yet. On Thursday night, two disparate bands, So So Modern and Of Montreal appeased the multitude with contrasting live shows. Of course, despite how good So So Modern were, the sell-out crowd was there for Of Montreal, the steaming whirligig of the crowd whipping themselves into a frenzy over the prog/glam/costumed excess of the second wave Elephant 6 band. And while in these times of austerity, a savage spectacle might appear overly excessive, the glorious utopia of these bands brought out all kinds of love, good thoughts and reverence.

When So So Modern’s ascended the pulpit, the crowd were restless, demanding to be satisfied. Their countrymen and lovers need not have been worried. They were as tight as I’ve seen them for a very long time. Watching them over the last few years is like the uncertainty principle in practice when it comes to characterising their style – especially given defining them is a futile process which changes each time you pin them down (perhaps explaining their inability to nail that first album). But they coalesced their disparate influences perfectly in this performance – post-rock, shoegazer, hardcore, synth-rock – with the troughs and peaks of their speech expertly structured, leaving audience members behind me yelling shouts and clamours. “So So Modern? So So Good!” I know I sound like a repetitive old bitty eulogising SSM, but they are that good. However, that was unfortunately soon forgotten as the great Of Montreal stormed the stage.

Of Montreal’s recent shows around the States have been recapturing the glam excess of Bowie’s ’70s tours. Their following sharply spiked with 2007’s power-pop epic Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, and despite the critical backlash towards last year’s excellent proggish Skeletal Lamping, their fanbase continue to lend their ears. Obviously, playing in a venue like San Fran tones down the possibility for live histrionics, leaving the music to do more of the talking. However, they still maintained a killer theatrical show, with costumes galore (my particular favourite was the dinosaur/Superman concoction), fruit and confetti throwing, all-in wrestling, roadie-metal-playing filler and flung tulips. Their material focused considerably on Hissing Fauna (though that album’s most infamous and brilliant track, ‘The Past Is a Grotesque Animal’, was noticeably absent. There are a lot of words to remember, I suppose). ‘She’s a Rejector’ and ‘The Sunlandic Twins’ ‘The Party’s Crashing Us’ probably received the most rousing reception from the tightly packed crowd. By the end, the audience were willing to be stirred up to all kinds of chaos particularly when the costumed roadies asked for throaty bellows of approval (the only exception to this was when Kevin Barnes asked the crowd to kiss a random stranger during the final song ‘A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger’; everyone was too reticent for the love-in, although the metalheads liked the black metal references). By the end of the night, it seemed the only way to mutiny against the private griefs of the outside world, was to have one’s spirits ruffled up by the excesses of utopian music at its finest.