There are times when I want to feel like my younger self. You know, that guy that for him a 4 1/2, 5 hr drive to a concert was just a mere drop in the bucket. We’d done it for Rush, Primus, Joe Satriani, and Wilco to name a few. Just hopped in the car, loaded up on junk food and caffeine, and cruised into the rock and roll sunset with little to no effect on us the next day. Lately though this is not the case. Even a 2 1/2 hour drive to a show on the outskirts of a big city causes much physical and existential pain. I often find myself in the midst of an attempt to be younger and more virile at one of these so-called “rock shows” thinking to myself “Why did you do this?”, and “What’s wrong with these people here? They won’t stand still!”, and of course my favorite that comes up “I’m so goddamned tired. I should’ve known better than to wear a v-neck sweater to a freak show.” So as you can tell, I’m not made of such pliable stuff anymore.
Still, occasionally an opportunity pops up and I’ve gotta jump at the chance. The list of bands that I want to see live before I die is, sadly, dwindling. One of the bands that has remained on this list for several years is Of Montreal. They’d announced a show a couple months ago at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe up in Kalamazoo, MI. It’s the restaurant/music venue of the awesome Bell’s Brewery(the actual brewery is now located in Comstock, Michigan which is about ten minutes outside of Kalamazoo.)
This really was too good to be true. I get to see one of my favorite bands play at one of my favorite breweries. It seemed as if the beer and rock Gods were blessing me at the same time. I bought the tickets and last night the wife and I hopped in the new vehicle and headed north about two hours.
Of course I did some research on record shops in Kalamazoo. There were two I found but we only visited one. We hit up the excellent Satellite Records over on Westnedge Avenue. Great little shop with a ton of rare(stuff I’d never heard of, anyways) and lots of great electronic, synth, psych, and pretty much anything you could imagine. For me, the real treasure was the Escape From New York S/T that was reissued by Silva Screen. I happily snagged that and we were on our way. If we make it back up I’ll stop by again.
Kalamazoo is pretty interesting town. It’s a picturesque town situated off I-94 amongst many trees that are currently changing colors. Western Michingan University sits cozily within the city, and seems to make up a good portion of this central Michigan destination. Driving through the town at night you got the impression that Kalamazoo was a big city that comes across like a smaller town. With each turn down a different street things morphed from newer buildings and bright lights to darkened streets and industrial scenes. It’s an interesting mix of college town and blue collar, whether that’s truly the case or not it’s how it appears when the sun goes down.
We arrived at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe around 7pm. We hit up their general store and I gawked at all the beer, as well as plenty of home brewing items you can buy directly from them. I settled for a $15 Bell’s Brewery t-shirt. We then made our way to the Cafe and put our names in for dinner. While we waited I enjoyed a 16 oz Bell’s Expedition Stout and my wife enjoyed a beer of the root variety.
The place was hopping(no pun intended), so we headed outside to the beer garden where there was some fresh air and a nice chill. Dinner was great. I had the Brisket Dip while my wife had the BLT. The brussel sprouts and soft pretzel bites were a nice starter as well. With dinner I had the 30th Anniversary Ale. It was quite tasty. After dinner, we headed to the Back Room, which is the concert venue located in the back of the restaurant.
The room is a nice-sized area. It definitely feels more like a rock club and not the back room of some hoity toity restaurant. We made our way to the front of the stage and enjoyed opening act Diane Coffee. I didn’t know this till this morning after some internet sleuthing but apparently Diane Coffee is the side project of Foxygen’s drummer Shaun Fleming. They were a great band. Imagine Three Dog Night and The Spiders From Mars morphing into this androgynous R&B/Soul outfit toying with psych and noise and you’d have a pretty good idea of what they sound like. Fleming is a flamboyant and engaging front man, while the band backing him is tight and on point. They played roughly 40-45 minutes, then it was time for the main event.
I’d always heard about the crazy shows Of Montreal put on; costumes, projected pictures behind them, and what seems to be a Greek tragedy-turned-porn on display on stage. While things might have mellowed over the years, there was still plenty of pomp and circumstance. The show opened with the band coming out and starting to play, while lead singer/guitarist Kevin Barnes’ brother David came out in what looked like a skin tight suit that looked like the human body with no skin on it. He kept talking about “999” and “not conforming”. He then introduced his brother Kevin and the show took off(I must say, if you’re at all familiar with Of Montreal then you should know that David Barnes is the person who’s designed and created all of Of Montreal’s album covers and general art direction over the years. He’s an amazing artist and one you should look into when you have a chance.)
Of Montreal were great. They pile drived through song after song, hitting highlights over the last ten years. Barnes seems to have taken more of just a lead man role in the band, as opposed to ringleader of some Caligula-like circus. During certain songs a costumed Greek chorus would come out and stalk the stage, engaging with both the band and the crowd. It kept you on your toes. The band Barnes has been playing with for the last two years or so is tight as hell. The rhythm section is solid, while the keyboard player jumped from Moog to synth to keys effortlessly. He made the Hissing Fauna-era tracks really shine.
A little over an hour into their set I’d decided it was time for us to hit the road. At first we were surrounded by what seemed like genuine fans of the band having a great time while also enjoying the great brews provided by Bell’s. But soon enough most of those people disappeared and we were surrounded by those idiots at shows that don’t know when they’ve had enough. Some bearded “bro” kept slamming into me while holding his $7 cup of Two-Hearted Ale in the air, nearly dumping it on me and my wife all the while attempting some dirty dance with his drunk gal pal as the band played “Suffer For Fashion”. At one point he slammed into me so hard I thought he nearly fell over as I wouldn’t budge. I knew we had to leave or I’d become my super alter ego “Super Curmudgeon” and things would go bad quick. We chose the right time to leave as the stage became this dance party/rave as the members of Diane Coffee came on stage with the gaggle of freaks in costumes and began throwing glow sticks into the audience while low end bass pounded out of the PA speakers 14 inches from my wife and I.
I was done.
So there it is. We got to see Of Montreal. Another one marked off the rock and roll bucket list. Not only that, but we got to visit one of my favorite breweries and enjoy one of my favorite stouts on tap. Win-win. The food there is worth going back up just to make a dinner/record shop trip. It really is a beautiful drive, with smaller breweries and wineries along the way.
And if things get hairy, I can always call on Super Curmudgeon to help out.