Of Montreal & Janelle Monáe at Music Hall of Williamsburg – 17 April 2009

I came into this show with two sets of expectations; one grounded in my own experience, one based on waves of hearsay. The first set of expectations was that of Montreal would put on a wild and crazy show, with many props and dancers and confetti and paint and costume changes. The second was that Janelle Monáe would prove to be worthy of opening for such a spectacle as of Montreal. Both proved well-founded.

First, some information you require about the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
1. You can get a wristband with an expired Learner Permit that is not yours, but kind of looks like you, even though you’re four inches taller than what it says, and your eyes are not hazel.
2. You can also get a wristband with a fake ID that couldn’t get you one at (Le) Poisson Rouge.
3. Here’s the end of the good news: If you use said wristband to purchase an alcoholic beverage for someone who does not have a wristband identical to yours, and you and your friend enjoy your drinks together in the downstairs lounge, there is a strong likelihood that both you and your friend will be removed from the venue and not allowed to return.
4. It’s much harder for security to notice who does and does not have a wristband when you are in the crowd near the stage.

I hope my younger readership find (British collective noun usage, no big deal — that’s assuming I have more than one underage reader. Let us hope this is the case.) these facts useful in any future endeavours (just threw that “u” in there to unify the British style of this sentence) to the former Northsix club.

Moving back to the main narrative, we arrived with some time to get into a decent position to see Janelle Monáe and her band, and said early arrival was certainly a wise decision. Ms. Monáe was an engaging stage presence, striking at first simply for her looks, but truly earning with her performance all the praise she’s gotten. Outfitted in a white-jacketed, high-waisted tuxedo and sporting a wonderful sort of pompadour, Ms. Monáe strutted and fretted her hour upon the stage with admirable élan, provoking in me uncontrollable dance moves that seemed to come from hidden recesses deep within my body. Her voice sounded great, and her dancing was possibly even more exuberant than my own, though I would prefer to let another make that exceptionally difficult value judgment. She seemed to be posing at every turn, but without any hint of self-consciousness.

Though I rather pride myself on being privy to emerging musical artists and bands, I am not afraid to confess that I had never heard of Ms. Monáe before the announcement that she would open of Montreal’s three Brooklyn shows. Apparently, though, she’s been around for a while, which probably explains partially her confidence and stage presence. I get the sense that she’s been groomed for success by a some record execs, and when her début full-length drops (sometime this year, I think) my little sister will start listening to her. Which would be fine with me.

Moving along in the evening, my friends and I worked our way up to the front during the intermission between sets, at which point I made the bold decision to go buy a drink for a companion of mine, despite the danger that I would be trapped by the masses at the rear of the house. I was confident in my maneuvering abilities, however, and, relying on my cunning and wiles, I reappeared, to great mirth and excitement, near the foot of the stage, Amstel Light in hand. Go on, then, of Montreal, I thought. I am ready.

Man, I don’t know though! Was I ready? Can you ever really be ready for the fabulous spectacle that is an of Montreal show? (confession time: at first I spelled it “fabolous” — I can’t deny it!) Answer: Yes, you can be prepared, and I was. Though I wasn’t expecting them to open with The Past Is A Grotesque Animal! Man oh man, that was a treat, boy howdy. At the two New York shows this past fall, I was hoping but not expecting to hear it, and this time I didn’t come in with any expectations, and look what happened! Yowza. It’s true what they say: if you clear your mind, the world becomes your plaything, and its people your own personal helpers, like that buff guy who lived with the old widower author in A Clockwork Orange.

At this point in the game, reader, you should know a thing or two about of Montreal’s shows this tour, but I’ll try to drop some knowledge just in case you need it. Everyone is dressed outlandishly, Kevin Barnes as Georgie Fruit is strong into sequins and primary colors, the dancers are dressed sometimes in all black with gold faces, Buddha makes an appearance, there are many instances when there are people dressed in very little on stage (though Mr. Barnes was remained surprisingly clothed for almost all of the show, until way at the end when we were finally treated to the exposed chest (legs, too? I don’t remember) of the mastermind behind this whole goddamn thing). There were feathers EVERYWHERE at one point, and I had one in my mouth. Talk about gross! No, thanks, feather.

What else of note? During the first song, a girl in a silver shirt crowd surfed for a while before being dropped on her ASS! At the end of the set (before the encore) some of the black-clad-with-masks performers crowd-surfed with more luck, though I was stuck pretty much just holding one of them up for a while because no one was passing them. Good thing I do 500 push-ups every day and so have a dangerously gigantic and powerful upper body. Good thing for that goddamn black-suit man. Black snake moan is right!

I know what you’re wondering. You’re wondering about the Good King. Did he grace the most unworthy Hall of Music with his stately presence? Did he once again dress his royal personage with the most fine Toni Kukoc number seven Chicago Bulls jersey, wrought from the finest polyester by the master haberdashers at Champion? Yes, friends. Yes, he did. And it was a glorious evening. What a wonderful king we are blessed to call our own.

Other notable happening: a gentleman in the balcony performed the act known as “making it rain,” tossing money onto the crowd below. The only bills I saw were of the Washington variety, so I would say that he was perhaps a baller of the junior variety, working on his skill set at the Double-A level, in hopes of one day reaching full baller status of tossing actually significant amounts of money. Best of luck to him. It seemed that he was doing well, though, as he somehow had a large trophy at some point in the night. I will assume that he passed some sort of baller checkpoint Friday night, and that was his reward. Huzzah.

Onward to the end of the evening… For the final song, Mr. Barnes announced that Janelle Monáe would be joining them for a Bowie song. Hooray! They dueted on Moonage Daydream, from Ziggy Stardust, for what seemed like a while. There were vocal runs and guitar solos, and some wonderfully cute interplay between Ms. Monáe and Mr. Barnes. It was a special time for everyone, I think. After the set’s epic conclusion, I switched, almost unconsciously, into setlist-grabbing mode. This nab was one of my finer ones, perhaps the best since I snagged Bon Iver’s hand-written-on-a-paper-bag set list from a comically overmatched girl at the very same Music Hall several months ago. The roadie on Friday night employed a rather meritocratic method of distribution, one which I don’t think I’d seen before. Instead of listening to assorted pleadings, he simply balled them up and tossed them. I’ve seen plenty of roadies toss set lists without balling them, of course (MMJ at MSG, MBV at Roseland come to mind), but they usually don’t really go anywhere and it’s just silliness. Given the opportunity to showcase my hand speed, I shined, picking a set list out of mid-air with a casual ease that astounded all those around me. It’s just something I do. Overall, the set list was a fine mix of old and new material. I thought that Sink The Seine into Cato As A Pun was a nice touch, since Hissing Fauna is such an order-matters album, and those two songs perhaps most obviously so.

Before we see the rest of the selections, there is one more thing I must mention. After the show, I was pretty hungry, let me tell you. I decided to hit up the always reliable Anna Maria’s for a heavily-topped piece of pizza. The place was absolutely packed when I went in, a fact that would be key for my happiness in the immediate future. I opted for the chicken and broccoli slice, and after hearing the gentleman call out “chicken and broccoli,” I took out a fiver to pay, but he had already turned his back on the counter, leaving my slice atop the glass in all its massive glory. I was unsure for a moment of what to do, but quickly collected myself and took the pizza, recognizing and appreciating the blessing I had received. I was meant to have this pizza, and not to pay for it. I left Anna Maria’s glowing. I was so elated from my free pizza that I didn’t even mind when a certain member of our party (in fact, the very same individual whose irrational craving for Amstel Light would have cost me a prime viewing spot, were it not for my exceptional maneuvering skills) had to purchase a new Metro Card, leaving the rest of us to stare in sadness at the next L train now departing on the Manhattan-bound track while she fumbled about upstairs. As I said, though, the free pizza had put me in such a euphoric state that I was willing to forgive her unconditionally, setting an admirable example for the rest of our party.

That’s probably enough. Here’s what they played:

The Past Is A Grotesque Animal
Nonpareil of Favor
Gronlandic Exit
Softcore (not sure what this was, sorry)
She’s A Rejector
I Was A Landscape In Your Dream
Sink The Seine/Cato As A Pun
Labyrinthian Pomp
Beware Our Nubile Miscreants
Coquet Coquet (new song)
Faberge Falls For Shuggie
October Is Eternal
An Eluardian Instance
Id Engager

Rapture Rapes The Muses Requiem for O.M.M.2
Wraith Pinned To The Mast And Other Games A Sentence Of Sorts In Kongsvinger
Moonage Daydream (David Bowie cover, with Janelle Monae)

Here’s a picture, in case you don’t believe me!

P.S. Ain’t no nudie pix here, dudes! Sorry, weirdos!

Question: is it unethical to put this link in here, in a shameless attempt to get some traffic?

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2 Comments on “Of Montreal & Janelle Monáe at Music Hall of Williamsburg – 17 April 2009”

  1. Tom Says:

    Great blog, I’ll spread the word.

  2. zeeb mahwah Says:

    no mention of suspenders? or keith richards? weird.

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